Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In Conversation with Jane McCulloch, Author, Three Lives series

It’s time to feature another debut author on the blog. I love featuring interviews with new authors because it gives people the opportunity to learn from others who have had success in their life journeys. 

Featuring today are the edited excerpts of my interview with Jane McCulloch, the author of Three Lives Trilogy. Parallel Lines is the first volume in the series. 

How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or is there any other reason?
I began writing at a very early age.  At first, it was poems, then short stories and by the time I was at boarding school I was writing plays and sketches. My original intention was to become an actress and I went to a London Drama School. I married a theatre director and he steered me into writing for the professional theatre.  I began by writing biographical dramas and after that, I wrote a book and lyrics for two musicals, an adaptation of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and one based on the life of “Buster Keaton”. I also wrote librettos for operas and various lyrics for songs.  It wasn’t until much later that I decided to write novels.

Tell us about your book. How would you describe your work to someone?
'Parallel Lines' is the most personal and autobiographical of all the books I have written.  A great deal of it is based on my own experience. The theory - of our lives running in parallel - struck me a long time ago and it was pleasing to be able to explore this further. I used the psychiatrist so that the heroine, Celia,could explain this theory with flashbacks to the past and comparisons with her present life.  I think my work could be put in the category of ‘Family Saga’. I like to explore the issues of loneliness and isolation, and tension within families and their small circle.

What brought you to write this book? Where’d you get the idea?
I had been thinking about this book for a very long time – and wanted it to be the first book in a trilogy so that I could fully develop my three main characters. I had made a rough outline years ago and put it away then. I started on the re-writes only three years back.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? How do you develop your plots and characters?
I think the hardest part was making the device I had chosen for 'Parallel Lines' work, using the flashbacks and then bringing it back to the present. Once I had the outline, the plots seemed to develop quite easily. I think I am more interested in characters, particularly women, than pacey action.

What were the challenges in finishing your book?
The main challenge was making the characters believable. I had to do some research on the psychiatrist and based him loosely on a well-known doctor whom I had seen once. Another challenge was changing my writing style for theatre to fiction. The technique is completely different and I had to work very hard at this.

What was your favourite part to write and why?
I think my favourite part is Celia’s bid for freedom, towards the end after her final confrontation with George.  It showed bravery and with my background in a theatre it lent itself to plenty of drama!

What’s more important to you – the characters or plot?
I honestly think the characters are more important to me. But obviously, there has to be a plot in order to keep the readers’ interested.

Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?
Not really a message – but I do want people to realise that there can be huge problems with isolation and loneliness, even within a family situation, whether it be a wife or a child. I hope I have also brought out a hatred for bullying – which so often goes unseen and unnoticed. I also believe that it is necessary not to have constraints in a family situation but recognise that everyone needs their own space and freedom.

What are you reading right now? Are there any authors that you would name as influences?
Funnily enough, I have gone back to reading “War and Peace” which I hadn’t read since I was about fifteen. Although there are long narrative passages, particularly in the sections about the war, the dialogue is brilliant and so contemporary. I always like John le Carre and there are many other authors I admire, among them the late and wonderful Elizabeth Jane Howard and of course Nancy Mitford. I also can’t wait for the next Hilary Mandel. I love writing which is easily readable and moves fairly fast. Long descriptive passages mean I start skipping!

How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing? Do you have any advice for other writers?
That is a difficult question as I have only recently embarked on a career in fiction writing. As I am self-publishing, the hardest part for me has been marketing my books and finding my audience.  My advice to other writers of fiction is probably to start younger and not wait until you are in your seventies! However, I do have a wealth of experience to call on which must be some help in the writing of the character.

What's next for you? What are you working on now?
I just want people to enjoy reading the books and to find them enriching in some way.  I would love to have feedback and am always open to answering any questions.

About the Series:
In the 1970s, beautiful but unhappy Celia Roxby Smith reaches a crisis in her life and seeks help from a famous psychiatrist. During her intense sessions, she reveals a painful past that includes a bleak childhood in the postwar fifties, neglect from her parents at home in Oxford, and constant bullying received while at boarding school.

Now Celia is in her thirties and finds herself in a tragic and loveless marriage that resembles the same one her parents had. She sees frightening parallels between the past and present events of her life and is desperate to break away from her abusive and controlling husband. With the help of her psychiatrist and her new lover, she takes the first steps toward freedom and independence. But a shocking turn of events changes everything and leaves more questions than answers.

A little bit more about Jane:
She has worked as a writer, playwright,librettist and theatre and opera director. She also published an anthology of poems and two works for children. 
You can also read her views about various issues at her blog.

More info about the series can be found here.

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