Wednesday 27 April 2016

Busy Blogging

Phew, it's been a while. I've been busy over on other people's blogs. I know, terribly disloyal. But while I try and think of something light-hearted to say, or wait for some ridiculous, self-inflicted comical accident to befall - always useful for a blog post - I thought I'd leave you with a blog-interview for A lover of Books. This is the site of fabulously hard-working, Sonya Alford, and is taken from her week of posts about Urbane Publications authors. If you're remotely interested in books, you might like Sonya's reviews - bountiful, honest and insightful.

By the way, if that's quite enough about Tea and Chemo for you, thank you very much, please feel free to scroll down to the last few questions where Glass Houses gets a mention... 

1. Can you tell me a bit about Tea and Chemo please?When I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2013, I wanted to read about normal people who'd had cancer, made it through treatments and were waving from the other side with a smile on their faces saying that it was ok, it wasn't all bad. I struggled to find these stories so I decided that I would use my blog to talk about what a cancer diagnosis is really like from the coalface.

Tea and Chemo is a mix of my original posts on cancer and its treatments, with the addition of many more anecdotes. It's about sharing what I've learnt: advice on what to do when your food tastes as though it's been sprinkled with bicarbonate of soda and stirred with mud, your hair is falling out in handfuls and strangers are asking how come you have hay fever in February.  I hope the information is helpful but that readers will also feel my empathetic hug and have a smile at the light-hearted elements, because cancer treatment is like life; it has its ups and downs.

2. What made you decide to get this book published?
It was a combination of a few things. I felt that a few months further on, I had so much more to add to the original blog posts. People were suggesting the idea of a book, telling me that it would make a great gift for those wanting to do something positive for friends and family diagnosed with cancer and it was the opportunity to raise some money for cancer related charities and organisations. I had that little voice in my head telling me that if I never tried to get it published, I would never know…

3. Your book has already been of help to lots of people. How does that make you feel?
Oh! Where to start? I have been absolutely over-whelmed by the response to Tea and Chemo. The reviews posted on Amazon and other review sites, not to mention the emails (and even an orchid sent with a thank you note) generally bring me to tears – happy tears. It's a very humbling, life-affirming thing to learn that words I've written, could help other people. I originally said that if my book could help one person feel calmer, more optimistic and hopeful about the prospect of, and reality of, cancer treatment, then I'd feel my work was done. To know it has helped many people is job satisfaction of the very greatest kind.

4. Do you think it's a book that anyone suffering from cancer should read?
Tea and Chemo isn’t a definitive guide to cancer and there are other more factual books on cancer out there. But I like to think there's something in there for everyone, both on a practical and emotional basis, not just for those diagnosed with cancer, but also their family and friends.

Indeed, a reviewer wrote that they didn’t have cancer but that there were other strong themes, 'around the basic goodness in our society and the importance, whatever the situation we are in, of choosing to adopt a positive attitude.' He also added that, 'the final page is worth reading every morning,' which made me very happy indeed.

5. When is your next book due out? 
Glass Houses, a novel, is out on June 9th and is now available to pre-order from Amazon and direct from the Urbane Publications.

6. What is it about?
Glass Houses is about two women who make stupid mistakes and the massive ramifications not just for their lives, but for those close to them. It's about people in 'glass houses' not 'throwing stones'. It's also about smashing up our lives: however hard we try to stick them back together again, they will never look the same as they did before.
And maybe, just maybe, this might not be such a bad thing.

Glass Houses is contemporary fiction (please note that it's incorrectly classed as a 'thriller' on Amazon. It isn't a thriller) so it's a very different read to Tea and Chemo but I hope that there's a similarity in that it tackles dark themes with a light touch.

7. Are you planning to write any more books?
Not just planning…! I have the first draft of a novel written but it's stashed in a drawer currently, covered in dust after two years of neglect while my writing life has been totally consumed with Tea & Chemo and Glass Houses. I'm looking forward to getting back to it. I also have two other novels started which vary from 'fleshed out ideas' to a 'good half of the first draft written'. Watch this space!

8. What has the publishing process been like for you?
Every bit as wonderful as I'd dreamed – and some. When I first clicked on the Urbane Publications website, I found myself plunging deep into the inner pages of Google to check that this Utopia of a publishing house was actually kosher. It is. Urbane Publications, led by the charismatic, dedicated and incredibly hard-working, Matthew Smith, is all about collaboration. I've been consulted at every step of the way and have enjoyed working in a team to make my books the best they can possibly be. Now Urbane and I work together to make sure people know my books are out there. I'm having a ball and thank my lucky stars that I discovered Urbane Publications on Twitter. 

9. What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I've never been one for hopes and dreams, in the same way that I'm not one for regrets and mistakes. I believe in striving to get the best out of every day and if you put all your efforts into that, say yes to everything you possibly can as a matter of default, then your life will be rich. I don’t know what the next five years have in store for me and I find that exciting. I just hope that I'm alive to see them and everything else is a bonus.

10. Can you describe your life in three words?
Busy, happy, rewarding

11. What advice have you got for all of us?
Phew! I'm not sure I'm qualified to give advice so I shall steal a mantra I first saw on the opening credits of Cold Feet (a wonderful drama from the late 90s for those of you too young to remember). I saw this quote and thought, there it is, that's what I've been trying to articulate all along. Are you ready?

Life's a journey, travel it well.