Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Welcome back RNA member, Theresa Le Flem...



Hi Theresa! It's lovely to have you return to another visit on my blog - I am looking forward to catching up. Wishing you all the best with your latest release, let's kick off with my questions...

What is your favourite thing about yourself?

I presume you don’t mean in the physical sense?! I like really feeling that I’m a writer - if you see what I mean?  It wasn’t until fairly recently I could say that with any conviction. Now, with my fourth book published, ‘Meet Me at Low Tide - Poems and Drawings’ my self-confidence has grown. So when people ask me: “Are you working?” I can say proudly, “Yes, I’m a writer.” You wouldn’t believe how hard that has been. When I was a child, my father was a passionate and prolific artist. He sold very few paintings and struggled to support our family working as a barber. However, on every form, under “Father’s Occupation:” he would write: “Professional Artist”. I admire him for that.

What do you wish you’d known before you started writing?

How hard it is, even when published, to be successful. The day my first novel was accepted by Robert Hale Ltd. I almost exploded with excitement! I still appreciate that great moment, holding my first hardback copy, and seeing my books on the shelves in the library. But the work doesn’t stop there. Publicity and promotion builds success these days, mostly done through social media. I have a website, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon Author page, but it takes up the hours I could spend writing.

Share a romantic moment in your life.

It was a cold autumn evening when my boyfriend Graham and I attended the Harvest Festival Supper at our village church. Seventy or so people were enjoying their meal, sipping wine and talking excitedly. The volume rose to a roar as the lights went out and someone appeared in our midst carrying a birthday cake glowing with candles and everyone started singing. Then I remembered - it was my birthday! But the surprise didn’t end there…when I blew out the candles Graham got down on one knee and said, in front of everyone: “Theresa, will you marry me?” It was wonderful, completely unexpected and when I said “Yes!” they cheered and clapped!

Is there one subject you’d never write about as an author? What is it?

Cruelty and violence. I can’t bring myself to write about things which are too dark. I avoid watching thrillers on TV and I don’t read anything in that genre. However, my poetry collection covers some of the saddest times in my life. During my first and failed marriage, I endured abuse which I would prefer to forget. Often the emotion is real and raw but I wrote about how I felt, not what had happened.  Poetry offers a door of escape. To quote from my latest book: “My tears have become poems that splash onto the page…” I feel I can write about things in poetry which I wouldn’t cover in a novel.
            In 2001 my youngest son was caught up in the September 11th tragedy in New York.  He was working in a nearby building and saw the planes hit the twin towers. He survived, but when I visited him there soon after, and went with him to his office in Manhattan, stood at his office window and heard him describe how he saw this huge black cloud rushing towards him and the terrifying ordeal of them all escaping from the building…well, it makes me shiver, even now. I wrote a poem that day.

Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Read, read, read! I can’t stress enough how important it is to read good quality writing. I would even go as far as saying don’t read anything which is poorly constructed, full of clich├ęs, or obviously produced for purely commercial purposes. When I first started, I read lots of ‘How to write’ books and  I can recommend, ‘How to write a novel’ by John Braine and also (don’t laugh):  ‘Writing a Novel and getting Published’ for Dummies. It worked for me! 

If you could be the original author for any book, what would it be? Why?

‘Sons and Lovers’ by D.H. Lawrence.  It’s the realism which I find so strong. I read a lot when I was younger – I was forever reading while walking to school and kept bumping into lamp-posts. I admire Lawrence in particular for his passion, his spiritual and social awareness. When considering characterization, go to Lawrence; for burning intensity and romance, go to Lawrence. His heroes are real people, flesh and blood on a page and I’ve learned a lot from his writing.

What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?

I hated school. I often got punished for saying I didn’t want to go. Attending a Catholic Convent school in London, I travelled by train and was often late – something I got the cane for, more than once. Even now I still can’t see the true benefit of compulsory schooling for children. (What? You mean every day?) If I’m interested in something I like to take on the task of teaching myself but not everyone thinks like that.

If I came to your house for dinner what would you prepare for me? Why?

You would be very welcome Rachel! To start: a nice glass of - what will it be? Red or white? I hope you like old-fashioned English cooking? I will be preparing roast lamb with new freshly-dug potatoes, served with loads of vegetables (all grown on our allotment). Dessert will be blackcurrant and apple crumble (fruit from the garden) served with Cornish ice-cream, my favourite! Graham and I both enjoy growing our own food. It’s a constant battle with slugs and pigeons though. I’m a great believer in organic food so I’m always studying the small print on packets. We’ll be having plain honest food with no additives other than herbs and pepper – hope you enjoy it!

Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog today.  It’s a treat to be asked about my life. I’ve really had to think hard about the answers to some of the questions you’ve given me. Digging deep into the past is a challenge. Memories filter through the gaps in my fiction sometimes, but to be asked directly is difficult! But you’re still welcome to come for that Sunday roast, Rachel! Thank you, I’ve enjoyed the interview enormously.

 Blurb:

This anthology brings together over thirty years of previously unpublished work by the poet and novelist Theresa Le Flem combined with drawings reproduced from her notebooks and sketchbooks. Perceptive, challenging, spiritual and moving – the poetry of Theresa Le Flem takes the reader on a journey from Cornwall to Ireland and from the Midlands to the wild stretches of Romney Marsh. Along the way she shares with you her passion for life and social justice. Covering history, political comment, conservation, love and personal experiences, this revealing and thought-provoking anthology offers a unique insight into the way a poet sees the world. This book is an inspiration for all those who strive to live in a world where creativity, humanity and humility are treasured.

Links:

Recently published: Meet Me at Low Tide: and other poems



Twitter: @TheresaLeFlem

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