Hi, Mary and welcome to my blog!
Thank you, it is my pleasure to be here.
You normally write fiction under the name of ‘Mary Wood’ but have just published a gangland thriller under the name of ‘Molly Kent’, what made you take this change of direction?
The idea came from a poolside party on holiday in Spain. My husband and I, and a nephew and his family, were with my son at his villa, when talk turned to my writing career. The opinion was that I should and could, write a crime novel. They all thought I showed the right traits with how gritty my sagas are. I warmed to the idea. Not a new one, as I had thought of this before and have a wealth of information about procedures, and knowledge of how criminals think and work, from my ten years working with The Probation Service as a Probation Service Officer. And so, when I next found myself with the time to devote to writing this book, I took the opportunity. I’ve loved writing The Sweet Taste of Revenge.
Is the ‘The Sweet Taste of Revenge’ a standalone novel or will it form part of a future series of books?
That is something I haven’t made my mind up about yet. There are possibilities for more books with the same characters, but it is a wait and see situation at the moment. If this book does well and the readers of this genre accept me as a creditable writer in this field, then there will be more books of this nature. Like any new venture, you have to read the vibes coming back to you and take it from there.
If it’s part of a series, can you tell readers a little about any future plans you may have for further books in the series?
If it did work out that way, then certain characters who Layla, the main character, has her revenge on, would later try to bring her down and take all she has built up. We would see a power struggle between rival gangs.
What’s the basic premise of ‘The Sweet Taste of Revenge’?
I always champion women, whether women of a bygone age or as in this book, modern women. I set out to prove Layla to be strong enough, clever enough and ruthless enough to be able to take the revenge she seeks against all the odds.
Layla is a woman wronged. And not just in the sense of her man betraying her with other women, but him disappearing, building a new life for himself and putting in place plans to ruin her life. What her husband plans could see Layla behind bars for years. She has a fight on her hands. She doesn’t give up. She surrounds herself with other strong women, disposing of any who don’t come up to scratch. The Sweet Taste of Revenge is not for the feint-hearted.
Who is your favourite character in the book and why?
In the sense of a favourite, because I like one in particular better than the others, there isn’t one. There are very few ‘likeable’ people in the underworld. But, I do have two I rooted for. I wanted Layla to win. I wanted Gina, a woman of weak character, who is pulled into more than she can cope with and succumbs to drugs and prostitution, to have a better life, and to fight more for that. She is the one I felt sorry for and who had the most effect on me.
When researching, do you like to visit the area you are setting the story in?
Yes. To me visiting the place of the setting really grounds the novel. I am writing from experience then, not just what I can find out from a book or online. I can feel my characters in the setting, and imagine them going into real places. Even to the climate they would experience.
When I went to Poland for instance, for my novel, In Their Mother’s Footsteps, a wartime saga, out in December, I was shocked to find they had really hot summers. I thought it was cold there all year around! I had only taken warm clothing and was sweltering!
In The Somme for, All I Have to Give, a World War One novel, I found the atmosphere of the graveyards seeped into me. I could almost see the young soldiers, and hear the wails of their family. I found my place for my field hospital and was able to see what the nearby villages looked like, and what they had by way of entertainment when troops had rest days. And as I say, it isn’t just seeing, it is getting the atmosphere deep into my bones. For this novel too, I needed to know what it was like in and around the munition factories of Low moor and Bradford. There I found memorials to the men and women, the unsung heroes who worked under extremely dangerous conditions and who lost their lives in the terrible explosion that ripped the heart out of Low Moor.
Dunkirk featured in, Proud of You, and visiting there gave me the reality of what it was like to be trapped on the beach with the German’s closing in on you, and the raging sea in front of you.
And, Normandy, for both Proud of You and Time Passes Time, gave depths to these stories I don’t think I would have achieved without visiting there.
Bletchley Park was an amazing experience, and filled in so many gaps for me for a future novel to be published next year ‘Reach Out to me.’ A novel where the main characters are heavily involved in code-breaking and Bletchley.
I have travelled to many other places in Britain too, in search of realism for my Northern sagas. I descended a historic mine in Leeds. Experiencing the rickety cage that took me down into the terrifying bowels of the earth. And to feel just what it felt like to be down there. How unforgivingly dark it was when the single candle issued each day came to the end of its life.
Mining features in my Breckton Trilogy, and I knew very little about it until that visit.
London has featured in many of my books. What a big place, and how do you begin to get to know its people, the gritty East Enders? I had some experience of the characters there when I visited Brixton.
I love to travel, so have enjoyed all of these trips and many more, too many to mention.
How did you become a writer in the first place?
I was born to write. From an early age I loved books. Not just reading them but the feel of them in my hands. I showed a flare for it in my school days as teachers used to complain that my compositions were more like novels and far too long, though very good!
From this beginning I harboured a desire to write, but didn’t actually do so till 1989 when I looked after my mother in her last months. During the afternoon when she would nap, I took to writing a novel I had in my head.
Years in the wilderness followed with many rejections. They were difficult years for someone to break into the publishing industry. My manuscripts never made it out of the slush pile – I could tell that by how unread they were when they plopped back on my doormat.
Then along came kindle, and I never looked back. Persuaded to upload my work by two lovely authors I had befriended online, success followed success – proving all those agents wrong! My most rejected novel, An Unbreakable Bond, has sold thousands and thousands as an ebook, staying in the top twenty of genre for fifteen months! And in paperback made the Sunday Times top twenty bestseller list!
In the end, my publisher, Pan Macmillan, sought me out. One of their editors had downloaded my book, curious after seeing me in the top ten all the time and not knowing who I was. She loved it, and contacted me. From there I was offered a seven book deal!
Where do you write?
I have a little-bedroom office. I love it, as up till moving into it nine months ago, I lay on my bed with a laptop, or sat outside. But writing can be done anywhere and for me it certainly is. In the back of the car on a journey, on the beach on holiday, on trains, in hotel rooms, and even in the loo…haha…it has been done!
Could you tell us a little about your writing day?
Most days begin at five am. The first couple of hours are spent on my work-in-progress, or on an edit if I have one to work through – and no edit I ever experienced can match those of traditional publishers!! They make we weep sometimes, but I always love the outcome. I also find that I write with abandon, knowing they will put right the wrongs, and this gives me a freedom that helps with creativity, so is a good thing in the end.
Roy, my husband looks after me and has taken over the chores of the house (I have to give a good ‘do’ now and then, mind)
At around seven to eight, he will bring me breakfast. I work through while eating it. Social media, or emails, sometimes both. Then back to my book or edit. I always break for lunch to give my eyes and brain a rest. But will then work through any projects that need my attention in the afternoon. Often going back to writing until six pm, then it’s bath and change for dinner. Oh, that sounds grand. Changing often means, putting on jim-jams, or a house dress, unless we are going out.
That is the pattern of my writing day that I plan and love, but of course, many things interfere with it, and a life has to be led, so on a whim, I can pack a picnic, drag Roy off to the Lake District, about an hour from us, or to any other beauty spot, and forget writing for the day.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of writing a novel?
Learn your trade. Most people can write a story. A lot can write one long enough to produce a novel. But don’t think for one moment that is all you have to do, or that it is money for old rope.
There is a craft to writing. To be able to create believable characters, to have the story live on the page, not just to be told as if the reader was sitting at your knee listening to you rambling on. In order to do this, you need tools. Just as if you were going to become a plumber. You wouldn’t go to a person’s house and say you could fit a new tap for them unless you had gone through your training.
Writing is no different. Take a creative writing course, or learn from ‘how to’ books, and then, when you have the knowledge yourself, you can begin your novel.
Writing is hard work. Long lonely hours at a computer. Sometimes you will feel drained with the bleeding of all your creative juice, so tackle it in the way you would any job. Give it time, don’t skip the processes of getting to know your characters, researching your material, and allowing a professional person to edit your work. Writing is one discipline, Editing is another. The two need each other.
But above all of this, believe in yourself and in your story. If you do, others will.
Who’s your favourite author and why?
I really have a list of them, as I love reading, though have very little time to do so now. But for the sake of naming one, I would have to say, Catherine Cookson. She it was who first influenced me to put pen to paper.
I had read many – hundreds even, of authors prior to being loaned a Catherine book, but once I read hers, I experienced something very different to anything I had known before. I became the main character, her pain was mine, her joy was mine. I cried with her, for her, and for myself. This is what I wanted to achieve. To make readers experience those feelings when they read my book. I set out to do just that. I set out to learn my craft. The result was: An Unbreakable Bond. The greatest compliment I ever had for this book was that it reminded the reader of Catherine.
Can you tell readers a little about your saga series of books?
In the Breckton Trilogy I explore the way women lived in the days when they had no voice, and men ruled the roost. A time when it was said that there was no such thing as rape, and domestic violence was a man’s right to keep his missus in check.
This wasn’t just the poor women, either, many upper-class women had no choice in who they married and were often ‘sold’ to prop up the family fortunes. To this end some found themselves married to wealthy, but old and often, repulsive men. Women of this class and the aristocracy, really did have to lie back and think of England. They too were often victims of domestic violence.
I’m also fascinated by the class divide and how the actions of the rich impact on the poor.
And yet, to go against the grain, I have created powerful women too.
However, a trilogy covers a long period of time, and allows the author to bring the generations through the struggles as they fight to make changes in their lives.
And so this is the background my story is set against. Through it we follow the lives of the Fellam’s and the Armitage families, the working class – and the Harvey’s and Crompton’s, the rich. Their lives are entwined in love and in tragedy. Decisions are taken that cause extreme hardship, and violence, and even, murder. But always there is a good outcome. From the poor reaching new heights, to heroes in wartime.
The books are both heart-warming and very gritty as I believe in taking my reader to the depth of any experience my characters go through.
Although, The Sweet Taste Revenge, is so different in genre to these books, and to my wartime novels, I strove to inject this same depth into its characters.
Good luck with your new book, ‘The Sweet Taste of Revenge’, Mary. I’m looking forward to reading it. Where can people purchase the book?
Thank you so much, and thank you for having me. I’ve enjoyed the interview. Here’s the link for the book:
My books can be found, and first chapters read, as well as purchase them through links to Amazon, on my official web page: www.authormarywood.com Where I hold a monthly draw for new subscribers to win a signed paperback of their choice.
Also, my books are available on kindle, and most can be brought in paperback from W.H. Smiths. When newly released, they are in all major supermarkets, too. Much love to all, Mary x
** Mary is running a competition on the 10th September, 10am to 4am on Facebook only, to launch The Sweet Taste of Revenge, and one of the competitions run will be linked to this blog!!**