Welcome to the five hundred and thirty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with YA thriller and suspense / romance author Daphne Olivier. 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, Daphne. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Daphne: I grew up in the foothills of the Amatolas, South Africa, where my latest novel, The Kennaway Woman, is set. From an early age I read everything I could lay hands on—biography, fantasy, historical fiction, thriller, mythology, science fiction or the classics. I still enjoy a wide variety of literature, and have written in several different genres. I live in a small town in South Africa with my husband and our two dogs.
Morgen: It’s great that we start as readers as I’m sure it shapes the kind of writing we do (I read Roald Dahl and Stephen King so most of mine is dark). What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Daphne: My first novel, a YA thriller, The Peacock Throne (about a search for sunken treasure on the South African Wild Coast) was finalist in the Sanlam Youth Literature Award and subsequently published by Wild Child Publishers.
My second novel, a suspense/romance, Her Dangerous Inheritance, was published by Melange Books under the penname, Flora Penn.
My latest book, The Kennaway Woman, published by Melange Books, is historical fiction. This is the one I enjoyed writing most as it is based on historical facts that have always fascinated me. In 1857, in the aftermath of the Potato Famine, 157 destitute Irish women sailed to South Africa to become wives of German Legionnaire settlers. The Kennaway woman is based on the life of one of these women.
My thriller, The Pegasus Project (about a GM experiment that goes wrong) is scheduled for publication at Melange Books in 2013.
When not researching or writing a novel, I write science fiction. My short story, Check Mate, has appeared in OG’s Speculative Fiction.
Morgen: I had one-to-ones with three agents at the Winchester Writers’ Conference in July 2011 and all of them said they wanted more historical. 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Daphne: Since acquiring a Kindle, I have read very few paper books. All my books are available as eBooks. Her Dangerous Inheritance and The Kennaway Woman are available in print from Melange Books.
Morgen: It’s great having the choice isn’t it. 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?
Daphne: My favourite book is The Kennaway Woman. If it was made into a film, I would choose Meryl Streep to take the part of Nora O’Neal—a strong woman who overcomes overwhelming odds with courage and fortitude.
Morgen: She’d be great. She’s got to be one of the most versatile actresses. Did you have any say in the covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Morgen: The cover you’ve given me here is great. What are you working on at the moment?
Daphne: Another historical novel set in South Africa during the Boer War.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Daphne: I’m addicted to writing and write every day, whenever possible. I have never suffered from writer’s block. My problem is that there are not enough hours in the day so I tend to write at odd hours during the night as well.
Morgen: Oh yes, I know that feeling, and have too many ideas to cope with. We’re very lucky aren’t we. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Daphne: I outline the complete plot before making a start on a novel but, as writing progresses, the characters tend to take over and sometimes things change quite a lot.
Morgen: They do, that’s my favourite aspect of writing. Speaking of your characters, do you have a method for creating them, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Daphne: Most of my characters are based on people I’ve met, but others are figments of my imagination. I do try to create names that suit the characters.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Daphne: I do a lot of editing and find the input of crit partners helpful. Writers tend not to see mistakes in their own work. That is why having someone else read and crit the manuscript is so beneficial.
Morgen: I agree. We’re always too close and another pair of eyes / ears will not only pick out anomalies but also come out with some great suggestions. Do you have to do much research?
Daphne: I wanted to get the facts right so spent a lot of time researching history for the Kennaway Woman. I’d heard about the Irish Potato famine (who hasn’t) but research brought home to me just how catastrophic it actually was. I’d also heard about the Kennaway Girls—the Irish women who came to South Africa to provide wives for German Legionnaire settlers—but research made me realize the poverty, hardships and dangers these pioneer women endured.
Morgen: My father spent eight years researching his side of our family and apparently we’re (very distantly) related to the former US President Jimmy Carter, having an Irish strain, in common. 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Daphne: My first book, The Peacock Throne, was written in first person. Since then, I’ve written in third person. I haven’t tried second person and don’t think I’ll attempt it.
Morgen: That’s a shame because I personally love it but I write (usually quite dark) flash fiction and short stories which it suits but it’s definitely an acquired taste. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Daphne: Rejections are part of most writers’ lives. I don’t let them bother me. I simply update my records and submit somewhere else. I realize that publishing is a business and that what pleases one editor may not suit another’s list or schedule.
Morgen: Absolutely, just the right thing for the wrong person. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Daphne: I have just begun marketing with facebook: facebook.com/daphne.f.olivier and blog: http://www.daphneolivierdotnet.wordpress.com. I have also requested reviews and plan to do signings at local stores.
Morgen: Yay WordPress. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Daphne: Follow your dream. Set aside a certain time of day to write and stick to the schedule no matter what distractions pop up or how you happen to feel.
Morgen: (Note to self: follow Daphne’s advice). 🙂 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)?
Daphne: John Steinbeck, Daphne du Maurier and Isaac Asimov. It would be interesting to see such different people in the same room. I would entertain around a campfire with a typical South African braai (barbeque) and an assortment of salads.
Morgen: Sounds wonderful. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Daphne: I belong to several crit and writing groups and correspond with other writers to exchange news and views.
Morgen: Me too. I run / belong to four groups and they’re all invaluable. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Daphne: When not writing I read, play bridge, garden and walk my dogs. When time allows, I slip away to the bushveld to enjoy solitude and the company of wild animals.
Morgen: Can I come? 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Morgen: I’ve heard of Critters, though not investigated it as much as I should and will certainly look at the other two. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Daphne: Visit my blog at: http://www.daphneolivierdotnet.wordpress.com.
Morgen: Thank you, Daphne.
I then invited Daphne to include an extract of her writing and this is from The Kennaway Woman:
Nora O’Neal shivered as the coffin slid into the open grave. Her lip trembled but no tears fell. She had cried for Mama and baby Sue and for so many others who lay in this churchyard, buried beneath mounds of black earth. And now it was Papa’s turn. She would have cried for him too had she not felt so numb and cold. She swayed, and for a moment had the strangest feeling none of this was real, that she was floating somewhere far, far away and that the redheaded woman standing at the graveside wasn’t her at all.
Nora pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders and stared down into the grave. It was hard to imagine Papa lying in that long, narrow box, hard to believe she’d never hear his voice again, never see his eyes light up when she came into the room. Papa, who’d worked so long and so hard in a desperate effort to keep his family alive. Nora closed her eyes to blot out the memory of the last few, terrible months. The images haunted her dreams at night, but she would not allow them to intrude during the day. Not while she had strength to push them away.
“Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,” Father Donahue intoned. He hunched his shoulders against the wind and glanced up at the sky as though anxious to be gone before the drizzle set in and became a steady rain. The wind dropped then gusted again, sighing through the trees and ruffling the leaves at their feet.
Nora’s gaze strayed to William and then to Deirdre, standing beside him, clinging to his arm for support. Not so long ago, her brother had been big and brawny with a ruddy complexion, a man proud of his strength. Now he was little more than a shadow, his cheeks hollow, his clothes hanging off him as though they belonged to someone twice his size. Deirdre had changed too. Her pale face and drab hair bore little resemblance to the pretty girl William had married less than a year ago.
…and a synopsis of that book…
As famine sweeps across Ireland, Nora O’Neal clings to hope that her lover in America will send for her. Devastated by news that he has married someone else, she turns to the Kennaway Scheme as her only hope of survival. The plan to send a shipload of destitute women to South Africa on board the Kennaway appears a godsend, but Nora soon discovers a drawback. On arrival, the women are destined to marry German Legionnaires, men settled on land granted to them in the Eastern Cape after the Crimean war.
Nora is horrified at the thought of marrying a stranger but must face the fact that the alternative is starvation. Or life in a whorehouse. When the Kennaway docks in Dublin, she joins the crowd waiting to board.
Soon after landing in East London, Nora meets and marries Johan Detmann, one of the many men seeking a wife. As the pair travel along the lonely road toward her new home, she wonders what lies ahead, unaware that she is about to enter a land troubled by famine, hardships, uprisings and bloody Frontier wars.
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