Saturday, 5 November 2016

Author Q & A Rose Alexander - Garden of Stars

The Alentejo, Portugal 1934

I am Inês Bretão and I am 18 years old. Now that I am finally an adult and soon to be married, I feel like my real life is about to begin. I have decided to document everything that happens to me, for my children and my grandchildren…
As Sarah Lacey reads the scrawled handwriting in her great-aunt's journal on a trip to Portugal, she discovers a life filled with great passion, missed chances and lost loves – memories that echo Sarah's own life. Because Sarah's marriage is crumbling, her love for her husband ebbing away, and she fears the one man she truly loves was lost to her many years ago…

But hidden within the faded pages of the journal is a secret Inês has kept locked away her entire life, and one final message for her beloved niece – a chance for Sarah to change her life, if she is brave enough to take it.

Title:               Garden of Stars
Author:           Rose Alexander
Published By: Carina
Date:               July 16th 2016
Link:               UK: Amazon 

What was the inspiration behind this novel?
It’s hard to talk about that without giving away part of the story. If people really want to know and don’t mind spoilers, check out my blogpost on where my ideas come from on my website: Part of it was also reaching a certain age and looking around me and seeing how relationships often falter at key times, such as when there is a lot of pressure from young children, financial worries or simple boredom.

Some photo's as described in the book.
Bridge over Douro

Ines's house in London

Lisbon tram
Street in Alfama, Lisbon

Did you always want to be a writer?
Always. As a child, I wrote a book and sent it to a publisher, all in secret. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone as I thought they would laugh at me and say that I was ridiculous to even think that I could be a published writer. The publisher of course didn’t go with it, but sent a lovely letter back encouraging me to carry on writing. As I grew older, I dabbled in student journalism and feature writing but I got waylaid into all sorts of other things – in terms of career, I wanted to be a newspaper journalist but ended up getting a job in TV and working as a TV producer/director for many years. During that time I didn’t write as I was so busy. Then I had three children and got even busier…. Finally, I got to a stage in my life when I had to say to myself that if I still dreamt of being an author I had to actually knuckle down and write a book! So I did.

What other jobs have you had?
I’ve been everything from a waitress, book shop assistant and melon picker to freelance feature writer, TV producer/director, creative consultant for a digital media agency and now a qualified teacher of English. I am full of envy for novelists who manage to get on and write stuff in their twenties and thirties and get it published. I wish I had done that but I just didn’t have the faith and confidence in myself to even try. I’m not sure that I had the stories then, either. With age has come a much more cavalier attitude – who dares wins, in essence, plus a wealth of life experience to draw upon for my novels.

How did it feel when your first novel was published?
In truth, it was a bit of an anti-climax. When you have wanted something for so long, and worked so incredibly hard to make it happen, I’m not sure it could be any other way. I also have a terrible tendency to rain on my own parade and dismiss my own achievements. I think this is due to having experienced a lifetime of depression – it’s very hard to be kind to yourself and to congratulate yourself on anything. Once the positive reviews and words of support and encouragement started to come in from readers and reviewers, the whole experience became a lot better, not just because they were saying nice things but just because it felt that the writing had a real purpose.

Have you ever had writer's block? If so how did you overcome it?
I don’t allow myself to have writer’s block. I have very limited time slots available for writing as I have an incredibly demanding full-time job as a secondary school English teacher, as well as three children of my own, so when I’m in one of those slots, I MUST make the most of it and write whether I feel like it or not. I reassure myself by telling myself that I can always scrap it if it’s rubbish – but something good might get written down, even if I can’t see it right then and there.
However, overcoming depression to write is a lot harder because it is not about the words or lack of them but about what is going on deep inside you, your own feelings of worthlessness and pointlessness. I struggle to deal with that sometimes, but fortunately after a few years of counselling, taking anti-depressants etc the depressive bouts are becoming fewer and shorter.

What motivates you to keep writing?
If you want it, you have to make it happen – and no one can do that except you. And I have a head full of ideas that feels as if it will burst if I don’t get them down on paper.

Do your characters moods ever affect your mood and vice versa?
I don’t think my characters affect my mood but they certainly often do rather unexpected things – they take on a life of their own once you have created them and the book doesn’t always follow the path you had envisaged once the characters start meddling! The thing I can’t do when writing is listen to music because this really does affect my mood. I find it far too distracting so I prefer to write in silence, or I have the radio burbling away in the background. I find speech radio hugely comforting and truly don’t think I could survive without Radio 4.

What three pieces of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Never give up, never give up and never give up.

Which authors inspire you?
Rebecca West, Rosamond Lehmann, Margaret Atwood, Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Aminatta Forna, Khaled Hosseini, Daphne du Maurier … I could go on. Just noticed all but one is a woman, too!

What are you reading at the moment?
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – recommended by a friend who said her book club had loved it. I’m really enjoying it.

If your book was made into a film what song would you choose for the opening credits?
Angels Don’t Cry by The Psychedelic Furs.

Who would you choose to play your favourite character in the film of your book?
Gwyneth Paltrow would be Sarah. Kristen Scott Thomas for Inês, if she didn’t mind playing someone very old. Chris O’Dowd would be Hugo. I can’t think of who would be Scott – suggestions welcome. Then of course we need the young Inês, and John, plus the young Sarah and Scott. Tricky!
What is your next book about?
A love triangle, jealousy, passion and poison…

And now think about the books you've read and just give the first one that comes into your head for our quickfire 'Which book round.'

Which book has made you:
Laugh out loud?
Anything by Bill Bryson.

Cry your heart out?
The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann.

Want to read it again?
The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West.

Think more?
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Wish it would be made into a film?
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby.

The Devil That Danced on The Water by Aminatta Forna.

I hate being scared – The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is as scary as I go!

Thank you so much for joining us Rose and good luck with the book.

Book Angel x

About the Author

I've had more careers than I care to mention and am currently working full-time as a secondary school English teacher. I write in the holidays, weekends and evenings, whenever I have a chance, although with three children, a husband, a lodger and a cat, this isn't always as often as I'd like. My book is the result of much hard work, research and patience. The greatest reward possible would be my readers' enjoyment, so I hope it does it for you!
You can find out more about the book and read my blog on my website:


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