Welcome to the two hundred and eighty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with literary author and poet Rose Mary Boehm. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Rose. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Rose: Oh, dear, where to start… I have written all my life, it seems. I live in Lima, Peru, because I married a Peruvian. So that’s a logical next step, isn’t it? After I retired I could finally dedicate all my free time to writing. I am a German-born UK national. Writing in English did take about 15 years of immersion into my new language. Once you have a certain standard in your own language, you expect to write to that standard in your second one.
Morgen: I guess made all the more difficult though by not living in an English country. Whenever I’m in Germany (I have friends there) I start soaking it in from hearing conversations around me. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Rose: I write fiction for intelligent readers who would like to be entertained and even moved, as well as perhaps picking up some knowledge on the way. So far, it’s mostly women who have been especially delighted with my novels. As far as ‘considering other genres’ is concerned, yes, I do. I am more and more developing as a poet. That was the biggest hurdle as an ESL author.
Morgen: Although poetry is spare it is hard. I don’t write much so I find it hard, but then I’ve never been taught it and don’t practice it so that doesn’t help. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Rose: Not a pseudonym, just my maiden name which I lost somewhere with my first marriage. I write as Rose Mary Boehm and have published two novels and one collection of poetry.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Rose: Of course I had rejections. I think rejection letters / mails are almost a badge of honour. At first I felt hurt. Didn’t I just offer them the best new novel ever? After that I got hardened and more pragmatic. But I actually got picked up relatively quickly by a small UK publisher, the Black Leaf Publishing Group.
Morgen: Oh well done. 🙂 Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Rose: The poetry yes, I actually won Third Prize in the 2009 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse (US) with my poem ‘Miss Worthington’. Been shortlisted on the monthly Goodreads poetry contest.
Books is a different kettle of fish (wherever did this expression come from?). In order to be able to submit a novel (or any book) for one of those biggies, they have to fork out an awful lot of money. I think for the Booker you need 5,000 Pounds on registration and 5,000 Pounds on acceptance – something like that. No small publisher can afford that. I think the cheapest is still at least 1,000 Pounds reading fee.
Morgen: Ooh I didn’t know there were Goodreads contests. I’m registered on the site but all I tend to do is accept friend requests (which is great). I keep intending to explore. 🙂 Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Rose: No, I don’t have an agent. Every agent I wrote to (very few, actually) wasn’t ‘in’ that week. I mean, if they bothered to answer they answered months later and then mostly with a curt ‘not my type of thing’.
Is an agent vital? I really don’t know. Perhaps a ‘hungry’ agent can do a lot for you. Especially get you better deals / contracts. But very few (at least none I ever heard of) wants to bring an unknown author to fame and bestseller status. Too much up-hill work.
From what I gather this is now done by book publicists who also want a fortune. One quoted between 2,500$ and 4,000$ for a month (plus) of not exactly rocket-science activities without being able to give me an idea on ROI (Return on Investment). I passed.
Morgen: Very wise. It’s much easier for us to go our own way now, which excites me. 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all?
Rose: My books (the novels, not the poetry collection) can be bought as paperback as well as eBooks on Amazon. I was not involved in the process. I think I would have liked to have been.
Morgen: I’m only on Smashwords so far (which I did myself) but I’ve heard Amazon is easy (SW wasn’t hard). It’s in my plan so we shall see. 🙂 Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Rose: I personally prefer ‘real’ books, but living in Peru makes it almost impossible to buy good books in English anywhere in Lima, and having them sent via the normal postal service by Amazon is almost impossible because they disappear on arrival in the post office somewhere. That leaves me an expensive messenger service, or sending them to my friends in Europe where I pick them up when I travel ‘home’ (extra weight, not that good an idea when flying) or Kindle. I have recently purchased quite a few Kindle books.
Morgen: That’s the joy of it, isn’t it. Instant and light. I love technology. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works?
Rose: Not as much as I should, I suppose. I prefer writing to marketing. I am also not so hot in the new ‘social network’ compartment, and know just the basics (even though I am learning). I am nearly 74 – so I didn’t grow up with facebook, twitter and blogs.
I have, however, created a book blog for the first novel, COMING UP FOR AIR which I have badly neglected, and might create a blog to include the second one, THE TELLING, where I’ll probably include the first. Let’s say that’s under construction.
But I am more and more active as a poet TANGENTS is already well behind me. My recent work is published more and more in mostly US poetry reviews. As I am also a photographer I combined my two passions – and more – AND share the platform with others, I created a blog for the arts in general. It’s relatively new, but it’s already been noticed and commented on very favourably indeed. It’s also registered with DUOTROPE. Take a look at http://houseboathouse.blogspot.com. It is intended to become a showcase of everything artistic of a high standard.
Morgen: My mum’s 80 and she’s always refused to have a computer so I’m very impressed. Mary Wesley (of ‘Camomile Lawn’ and other novels) was 74 when she had her first book published. 🙂 Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Rose: Both my novels are the story of one protagonist told in two books (even though THE TELLING is very much a stand-alone read).
I could see COMING UP FOR AIR as a TV novella in three parts – that’s how the book is written. It’s definitely a ‘coming –of-age’ novel with a difference:
Part I: Another Kind of Childhood (set against the backdrop of WWII in Germany)
Part II: The Unbearable Burden of Sex (set against the end-of-the-war years in Germany)
Part III: Spitting against the Wind (a young woman discovering what she takes for love)
COMING UP FOR AIR would have to be played by at least three actresses to span the ages from three-and-a-half to 20.
THE TELLING could be one film. If she were still around, I’d like to have Katherine Hepburn take the title role. Should she be busy, I’d happily have Lauren Bacall. No problem.
Morgen: Wouldn’t that be great. 🙂 Did you have any say in the title / covers of your book(s)? How important do you think they are?
Rose: I approved both, for better or for worse. I think they are immensely important. It’s the packaging of the content, isn’t it? I don’t really know how well we did.
Morgen: I’m no expert but they look pretty good to me. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Rose: Right now I am writing poetry exclusively, and look after my blog.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Rose: Yes, I write every day and yes, I sometimes feel as though I’ll never write another creative line.
Morgen: Oh dear… but you keep going. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Rose: I do plot, but then the characters run with the story and lead me in directions they prefer.
Morgen: Isn’t that great! I love that about fiction. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Rose: I use people I have known or amalgams of more than one person. They tend to be believable because I draw shamelessly on their real personae.
Morgen: 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Rose: I have used the second person singular / plural only in poetry. Both my novels are written in the first person because I felt this would give it immediacy. But in THE TELLING I interchange third-person chapters with first-person ones. One and one – in rotation. I found that interesting because the third-person point-of-view can explain better, sees more, may be more honest.
Morgen: Alternate viewpoints have become really popular and I think works really well. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Rose: Yes, possibly. Who knows.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Rose: I am a bit of a loner, even though I have an extrovert personality. So, doing stuff by myself is cool. What surprised me was that these guys I invent try and take over. 🙂
Morgen: My favourite aspect of the craft. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Rose: Just get going. Trust your instinct. But then get a good editor (and listen to him / her!) I felt the lack of an editor keenly, especially with my first novel.
Morgen: Absolutely. There was a huge debate on LinkedIn recently where a chap said he was going to self-edit then self-publish and no-one agreed with him. Having an editor is my only expense but apart from finding errors (fortunately not many) she’s come up with some wonderful suggestions. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Rose: It’s always difficult to combine people you would like to be with but who may not like each other. However, having that privilege, I’d probably invite Oscar Wilde, Bette Davis and David Niven. For their sense of humour, their wit, their intelligence and their willingness to gossip! I’d have high hopes that David Niven would be good on the barbie, and that we wouldn’t mind too much anyway because I’d lay on an excellent Rioja (or two or five).
Morgen: 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Rose: ‘If you have nothing to do, don’t do it here.’
Morgen: I’ve not heard that before but I love it. Are you involved in anything else writing-related?
Rose: My new ‘poetry and much, much more’ blog, http://houseboathouse.blogspot.com, my photography https://picasaweb.google.com/home, and travelling (I still have to discover chunks of my wonderful new home country, Peru).
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Rose: I am very boring person. If I am not writing, I like to read. Oh, yes, of course, I nearly forgot: I travel whenever I can and photograph whatever lets me.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Rose: I admit I haven’t looked far. I am a member of Goodreads, in my case a member of their poetry ‘club’. Goodreads is an excellent site.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Rose: I should be far more active in that respect. I can’t say I have found them valuable (yet) because I haven’t made the effort. I have been a member of LinkedIn for many, many years. But I only recently discovered its usefulness. I am on facebook and just picked up courage to use twitter. Give me time. I am on the case!
Morgen: I always thought LinkedIn was just for business (which writing is really) but had a few requests to join people already on it so I succumbed and love it. Everyone’s so helpful (most of the time) to each other but that’s the great thing about this ‘industry’ – we all want each other to succeed (most of the time :)). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Rose: That’s so very difficult to guess, isn’t it? As more and more writing is in demand for all the new technology-driven sites, the quality of the writing goes noticeably downhill. Perhaps I’m just an old grouch. But when I try and read young people’s ‘angst’ or even ‘texted’ poems, I growl.
Education in schools is also a problem for potential writers because the humanities and arts are no longer taught as a natural and important part of a young person’s development, and sciences (new technology, computer science etc.) are hogging the limelight and teaching time and talent. Universities have complained bitterly that many of their new intake A-level students aren’t able to read with enough understanding, or write well enough to make themselves understood. That’s a sad state of affairs.
Morgen: Isn’t it. No, you’re not an old grouch. Either that or I’m a 40-something grouch. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Rose: I suppose on any good online bookstore, including Amazon.com.
My book blog for COMING UP FOR AIR.
On Amazon you can read quite a few first pages of both novels.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Rose: Yes. I also write short stories. One of them, Mbaya, has just been published: http://outwardlink.net/features/rosemaryboehm/mbaya.html and quite a few of my recent poems have been / are to be published in various US online magazines.
Morgen: Oh great, I love short stories. Thank you so much Rose.
I then invited Rose to include an excerpt of her writing and said she wanted to leave us with one of her poems recently published by Burning Word, where she was one of their guest authors:
finds them in bars,
parks, buses, the underground
or coffee shops;
he frequents downtown
pole-dance joints, picks up
blondes, brunettes or curly blacks.
Long legs, ample behinds,
he’s not choosey. All have one
thing in common: they talk.
Somewhere in Soho they stagger
down those stairs
on dizzying heels,
click-clacking their way
into his basement. Call him
make themselves comfortable.
He smiles, puts his finger
to his lips and readies
the little machine. Pushes
the button and records
ten minutes of their silent breathing.
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm now lives with her second husband in Lima, Peru. Only after 20 years immersed in the English language did she attempt to write in her new ‘mother’ tongue. She travelled extensively, made a career in advertising, worked as a copywriter, founded her own business(es), married her first husband and had two children, had a one-woman show of her drawings in London, UK, then moved to Madrid, Spain, where she finally retired from the corporate world, moved to Peru, and now dedicates her life to writing. Her two novels, COMING UP FOR AIR and THE TELLING, have been published in the UK in 2010 and 2011 respectively, as well as her first collection of poetry, TANGENTS. She won a few prizes for poetry and photography, and three of her latest poems will appear in US poetry reviews in end-of year and Spring editions. You can find out more about her from poetry (and more) blog http://houseboathouse.blogspot.com and her book blog http://www.coming-up-for-air.com.
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