Sunday, 30 April 2017

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Anna Franklin Osborne

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Today I'm interviewing Anna Franklin Osborne about her debut novel Walking Wounded.

1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

Walking Wounded is a novel but was inspired by my late grandmother’s life. It spans the period from the end of the Great War through to the Ten Pound Poms in the 1950s, but focuses on those left behind during the wars and how they picked up the pieces after the soldiers returned. It covers many social issues, but particularly that of domestic violence and how so many people  may accidentally collide in failing to recognise what they are seeing before their eyes.

2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I read prolifically, most genres, and my husband always told me I should write but I never felt that I had it in me. Then I joined a choir and gradually felt that I would like to develop an artistic side – tricky for someone who hasn’t held a paintbrush since she was about 6! Neil went out one night, and I suddenly decide to Just Start Writing. I had no paper and no lap top so I sat in bed and started typing furiously into my iphone – and in the space of a few hours, had a short story written. I carried on over the next few weeks with new short stories then went on holiday, and while we were walking on the beach waiting for our ferry in northern france, I started telling the kids about my great uncles who stormed the beaches on D-Day, and about my Gran, who made parachutes. Neil looked at me and said ‘there’s your novel,’ and so I began…

3) How long did it take you to write your first book?

It took me a year, typing furiously on a tiny tablet for 15 minutes every day on the school run! Then I went on a writing course which was hugely useful for the editing, and rewrote and edited it over the next year – still in the school car-park!

4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

If I’m honest, nothing – I loved every second of it and can’t wait to get my teeth into the next one.

5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

Self-published. I went on this wonderful writing course with Felicity Fair Thompson for an inspiring weekend in the Isle of Wight and she talked about the different ways to publish and I felt her advice was so sensible, along the lines of: ‘years ago, 10% of manuscripts got published and those authors made it big, but the other 90% never even made it off the publishers desk. These days, 90% are published and very few get rich out of it – but did you want your book to be read, or not?!’ And I did, badly want it to be read!

6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

Just start – writing is a wonderful way to express yourself at the same time as being much more relaxing and absorbing even than reading. Enjoy every second!

Tell us about your first…
7) Book you bought - Five on a Treasure Island – I wanted to be George… din’t we all?

8) Memory – going on holiday as a child – always sun and sand!!

9) Person you fell in love with – Kevin, he lived across the road but he was sick all over my dad’s car on my 7th birthday party so that was the end of that.

10) Holiday you went on – I remember France but actually it would have been Cornwall – but I DO remember getting my fingers caught between the jetty and the ferry we were on!

11) Prize you won – my music box ‘for effort and achievement,’ actually from my parents as the school didn’t notice either!!!

12) Album you purchased – Queen, the Works – how I wish I’d seen them before Freddie died…

13) Sport you enjoyed participating in – die-hard badminton at Center Parcs with my kids! No mercy…

14) Embarrassing moment you can remember – euw this still hurts... Falling over backwards on a tube train (I was a country hick) with a big rucksack on and lying there like an upturned beetle, unable to move..

15) Pet – Betty, my goldfish. I won her when I was 5 playing darts at a fair, even though my parents told me it was rigged and I couldn’t win!

16) Time you were in trouble – can’t tell you, don’t want to get told off

17) ..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author – well I already work in health care and teaching – so I’ll say I’d love to have been a singer and I’m working on it…

18) …time you had any independence – moving to Bristol as a teenager too young to drive and being able to walk everywhere without needing to ask my parents to drive me.

19) …toy that you recall loving – Pollyanna, a Raggedy-Ann doll who was taller than me when I got her! I still have her.

20) … time you felt like an adult – I’ll get back to you

21) … time you realised you were good at something – when I did a solo song at a choir gig – I still haven’t come down, even though I’m very very much an amateur!

22) Dish you cooked – no comment, I hate cooking

23) … time you were really scared – when my brother hid in my bed - I had to turn the light off at the door and run across the room and jump up because it was a high platform and he was already under the blankets. I’ll get him back, one day…

Thank you so much Anna for taking the time to answer my questions, and please don't feel too bad about falling over on the tube, I've managed to fall trying to get onto a tube before.

All about the author

I have always worked in health care, and more recently in education, and like so many other parents, hit a tiny crisis a few years ago when I felt that my purpose in life had narrowed to not an awful lot more than dashing between my two jobs and being a mummy taxi. 

I managed to find time to begin singing with a choir, and that helped me feel that I might have a more creative side to myself. One evening, my husband was out and, quite suddenly, I decided to Start Writing. I immediately hit the first obstacles of terrible handwriting and a broken laptop, so my writing career began that night in bed, typing into the note section of my smart phone, with no clear idea of what I wanted to say but resulting in a severe case of RSI and several short stories over the next few nights.

My husband was delighted that I had suddenly found this passion and kept encouraging me to write a novel, which I really felt I did NOT have in me. Later that summer, however, we were walking along a D-Day beach for no other grander reason than our ferry home from France being late, and I began telling our kids about my three great-uncles who were part of that day, and my grandmother who sewed parachutes for the paratroopers jumping over Normandy. Neil looked at me and smiled and said, ‘you do actually have a story there, you know….’

Walking Wounded was written over a period of a year, on a tiny tablet which I bought specifically because it fitted into my handbag – as I said, ‘if it’s not with me at all times, this just won’t happen.’ I wrote every day in 10 minute bursts while I sat in the school car-park waiting for my daughter to emerge from school, I wrote parked outside ballet lessons and maths lessons, I wrote early in the mornings  while everyone was asleep.

Walking Wounded is a war story and family saga, focusing on those left behind whilst their men folk went to war, how they survived and how their relationships evolved through periods of violence, loss and reunion. The main story is about May, a young woman struggling to find her own identity as the youngest in a large family, forced into a stormy marriage through a mistake she is too proud to admit, and explores the web of loyalty, guilt and duty that shaped the decisions of the women awaiting the return of their men-folk as WW2 draws to a close. Spanning the period from the Armistice of the Great War to the exodus of the Ten Pound Poms to Australia in the 1950s, its internal violence is mirrored by the world stage upon which it is set.

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