Storytellers, readers, writers and reviews

Ruth HartleyReviews, Storytelling, The Shaping of Water, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing2 Comments

A brown vase with pale pink roses to the left of a young girl with dark hair engrossed in a book her fist on the page and her head propped on her other hand a brown coffee mug in front of her

Painting by Ruth Hartley of her daughter reading at the breakfast table 1980

We are all storytellers. We are all readers. Some of us are writers. Not all readers write reviews but all writers need reviews and even bad ones mean that we have been noticed and read. In this post, I am going to tell you in a 4 short paragraphs, about 4 books that have given me great pleasure and that I recommend. Afterwards, I will briefly say how writing changes the way I read. I belong to an enjoyable book club and while readers never agree on all the books, the best books do get approved by most.

I, Carmela  Clara Villanueva

Cover shows a young girl in a flamenco dress with castenets

Cover of I, Carmela

This is a cracking read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s fast-paced, funny, a little sad, interesting and the heroine is a feisty, passionate young woman who is determined to never give up in her search for love.  I recognised the locations and felt I knew the people. It’s set near Toulouse in France. Carmela is Spanish. I read it in Perpignan where I saw an exhibition about the Spanish Civil War – that is the background to Carmela’s identity. Spanish refugees like Carmela’s grandfather crossed the Pyrenees to this part of France. It’s a story about mixed-up people, in a new-age, mixed up place told by Carmela as she tries to straighten up her life and her old lovers.

The Ginger Tree Oswald Wynd

Cover shows a Japanese painting of two carp behind a net pattern

Cover of The Ginger Tree

I picked up this book with reluctance expecting a historical romance about Japan. I was stunned and seduced by the story. It is a romance, but not a conventional one. It’s a love story about Japan that starts in China. It is a love story about two people who have only sex in common because their cultural backgrounds are so different. Read More and Comment …

My story, is it a memoir, an autobiography, or a novel?

Ruth HartleyGraphic novel, Storytelling, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing Process4 Comments

The image shows a long knitted road with drawing fastened to it of the samewoman at different ages

My installation, Surviving Monsters at Peleyre Gallery, is not about me but about the journey through life.

What is my novel?

“How much of your novel is an autobiography?”

It’s a good question to ask a writer.

A good question

It was asked at the launch of The Tin Heart Gold Mine, but it’s not a simple question to answer. I immediately wanted to ask the other writers there what they thought. It’s easier to answer this question sideways by referring to other authors and other books. I’ve just finished reading The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd. I loved the book, but, as a writer, I wanted to ask Wynd how he arrived at the main character. Did he know someone like that? Did he research the character? Was she entirely imagined? Was she a female version of himself? How many genders, generations, epochs and eras and cultures must a writer experience before they can write about it? How fictional can fiction be?

Fiction, non-fiction and autobiography

There are many ways in which the writing of fiction differs from the writing of an autobiography. To complicate it further, both fiction and autobiography have many differing and shared elements that go into their construction. What they have in common is that they are both constructions – artificial and invented structures for telling a story. Writers construct these inventions – story nests if you like – from their own breast feathers, lay their eggs in them, incubate them, hatch them by chipping at the shells and then feed their story babies with half-digested regurgitations from their own bodies. Read More and Comment …

June Gadsby — author of 24 multi-genre books

Ruth HartleyCreativity, Storytelling, Writing7 Comments

June Gadsby smiling

June Gadsby

This post is to introduce my neighbour, the writer June Gadsby. We have known each other for over 7 years and June has been a kind and supportive friend. June and her husband have lived in this small corner of rural France for over 20 years and her lovely home and garden have hosted many pleasant gatherings. What is very important for me, is the creative drive that we all have, the need to express ourselves and tell the stories that really matter. I do enjoy contributions and comments from writers and readers which can be shared on this blog and I am delighted to post this article about June. Writing 24 books is a tremendous achievement.

A writer all her life

June Gadsby has been writing all her life, but it took a series of lucky coincidences to see her published. Read More and Comment …

Writing and selling The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Promotion, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing6 Comments

Writers need to sell books

Writers write – rather than talk about what they write – but the current publishing market forces us to become Independent Authors and acquire self-promotional skills entirely different from writing. The idea of a book launch for The Tin Heart Gold Mine gave me sleepless nights, but, nevertheless, we decided to hold the event at the Cafe du Centre in Gascony. It’s a great place for a meal and served our large party a delicious fish and chip supper afterwards.

Book launch and promotion

Ruth sits at a table of which are spread copies of her new novel The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Ruth at the launch of her new book. Photo by Geraldine de Haan

Claudia sitting at Ruth's right opens the discussion at the launch of Ruth's new book

Claudia introduces Ruth and her new book The Tin Heart Gold Mine. Photo by Geraldine de Haan

I did, however, enjoy the book launch. I was surrounded by friends and among them was a number of writers. Both together made the evening pleasant and interesting. My friend, Claudia, facilitated the evening raising the points that she thought would interest my readers.

She suggested that we discuss the autobiographical elements in my novel, something all readers are curious about and something I promise I will enlarge on in another post.

It’s relevant as my protagonist Lara, in The Tin Heart Gold Mine, is an artist like me. We also talked about southern Africa where I have spent most of my life. Africa, as I pointed out, is not one country, but a vast continent of many different countries and peoples.

Claudia also raised the question of Lara’s development to maturity and her relationships with Tim and Oscar, two very different characters.

Nick asked how I write about black and white characters without mentioning skin colour. It’s an important question and will get a separate blog post. It’s an idea I had started to explore in my post on Surviving Monsters. Read More and Comment …

Writing, hunting Agents, surviving Rejections, reaching Readers

Ruth HartleyThe Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing, Writing ProcessLeave a Comment

All that happens before the book launch

This post will be published the morning after the book launch of The Tin Heart Gold Mine. I had to write and schedule it before the launch and so can’t report on that event. I’ll do that the following week and then I’ll give all my loyal readers a break and only post fortnightly.

The photo shows a laptop on the right, a large screen in the centre, blue and white mug of tea, yellow post-it notes and pens in front of a sunny window and full bookshelf.

Ruth’s work station with large screen, mug of tea and post-its.

This time I thought that it might be interesting if I wrote a brief post about writing, being rejected, and eventually self-publishing  The Tin Heart Gold Mine and my first book The Shaping of Water.

Writing my first book

I was fifty before I was able to sit down and concentrate on writing. Writing was, in part, a mechanism for surviving the rupture of divorce. It was also simply what I had always wanted to do. I had been forced to squeeze that desire into foolscap pads, sketchbooks and notepads kept in a bedside drawer for those ‘nuits blanches’ – sleepless nights – when I wrote mad and secret poetry.

Once I was back in England, semi-employed and alone, I had my evenings to do as I pleased and I spent them writing.

A bookshelf showing writer's handbooks.

A shelf of how to write and publish books in my study. Photo Ruth Hartley

My first manuscript was a fictionalised memoir of the year when I learnt about politics in South Africa after graduating. I called it The Love and Wisdom Crimes. The title was suggested by the Chinese proverb that says it is impossible to love and be wise at the same moment. It contains many of the notes, poems and scribbles about life that I had made as a young woman.

Read More and Comment …