Thursday, 26 April 2012

Author Spotlight: Eileen Ramsay

I’m so delighted to welcome Scottish romantic novelist Eileen Ramsay to the Reading and Writing blog today. I’ve known Eileen for many years and was thrilled when she was nominated for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award with one of my favourite books, Someday, Somewhere. She also won the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy a few years ago. But even before then, I regarded Eileen as an inspiration on first meeting her at the Scottish Association of Writers Conference when I was a complete beginner. Not only did she teach, but she rose early each morning to write successful novels before going to the day job. Many years on, Eileen Ramsay is still one of my favourite novelists. She also writes occasional short stories and serials for women's magazines.

Like a number of traditionally published authors, Eileen has now begun making some of her backlist available on kindle, which means it’s even easier to read her books. Never Call it Loving is the latest on Amazon. It's a story that takes the reader on an emotional journey into the world of opera.

Never Call it Loving

Journalist Fern Graham believes she’s a typical modern woman, as she attempts to balance work, home and family. If she sometimes feels something is missing, she assumes she’s being foolish. Fern relaxes by listening to music, especially the voice of Pietro Petrungero, an Italian tenor.

She is stunned when her agent rings to say that Petrungero is looking for someone to write his biography and wants to interview Fern as he and his wife appreciate her work. Weeks after the worst interview ever, Fern gets the assignment and arrives at the palatial Petrungero villa. The relationship between Pietro and his wife, the famous soprano, Maria-Josefa Conti, makes Fern compare her own marriage to theirs. There is, however, a malevolent undercurrent in the villa and, while doing her research, Fern uncovers secrets which will stun the opera world.

The assignment takes her to some of the world’s greatest cities and, as she spends more time with the singer, she finds herself physically drawn to him. Soon they are falling in love. Deeply moral, but unable to fight, Fern is torn between two men and two worlds.

Can there be a happy ending, or does her future hold only heartache?

You’ll have to read it to find out! Never Call it Loving is available on Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

Thanks for answering the following questions, Eileen.

Have you always written in the romance genre?

Labelling genres is a mine-field, Ros. I’ve been told that some of my titles – The Stuff of Dreams, as an example - should be sold as crime novels. Apart from my children’s stories, however, there is always a ‘love interest’ in my stories. All I think about when writing is creating a good story; I leave the labelling to others. (Quite right!)

Any particular reason why several of your novels are set in the operatic world?

I’ve always been interested in the Arts. Ballet first and then when I was about fourteen, I was given an ancient 78 – at least I think it was a 78, something very old. It was, believe it or not, Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, played by the twelve year old Yehudi Menuhin. Sublime. I listened to everything I could get and was lucky as the Convent school I attended had loads of fabulous instrumental and orchestral recordings. At college I discovered the human voice in the spoken word and in opera. And that was it. Opera, the ultimate art form. When I started writing seriously I had the idea of rewriting all the opera plots.

For instance what if Othello were to become jealous and Desdemona were to say ‘Get over yourself’, as a modern woman might say. Result – no story. As you know, I do thorough research and have been lucky enough to meet wonderfully talented musicians who have helped me.

How did it feel to be nominated for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award?


Do you prefer print or eBooks?

Print, but I have to say I have fallen in love with my Kindle; it’s the ability to enlarge the print. Unfortunately it’s also too easy to buy books!

What is the most difficult part about starting a new book?

Knowing where to start, and which book to start. We all have so many ideas and unless a book has been commissioned, the ideas parade themselves shamelessly crying, me, me. Like an Italian ice cream shop, each one looks fabulous and it takes ages to decide if a particular idea has legs and will run.

What kind of books do you prefer to read?

Almost anything well-written! For pleasure I read well-written crime. Strangely enough, most of my favourite authors are women: Kate Atkinson, Louise Penny, Donna Leon, Aline Templeton, but I’m enjoying the Lewis books by Peter May. I also read a lot of what might be called Light Lit – Anita Shreve and Anne Tyler as examples. And I constantly reread favourite classics.

Do you have a favourite writing place?

Not really. All I need is a table and a chair that supports my spine. I have an office but it’s too cold in the winter. At this time of the year, I’m writing in an upstairs bedroom because a flowering cherry fills one of the windows – so beautiful.

Do you find time for hobbies?

What’s a hobby?!! I read and I listen to music – and I have catholic tastes. We have three absolutely adorable grand-children and I always have free time when there’s a chance of seeing any one of them. The whole family got together to take the babies to see the pandas at Edinburgh zoo. Definitely a walnut-shell day!

Are you working on another novel (if you want to answer that!)

Rosemary, you know writers are always working on another novel!! I’m writing two books at the moment and when I have any spare time I’m finishing the book that won the Elizabeth Gouge award several years ago. I intend to put that one out on Kindle. Alan Lennon Design in Edinburgh will do a cover for me. He did the Never Call it Loving cover and I think he’s superb.

Any tips for new writers?

Read a wide variety of books. Reading is like eating – you can’t say you don’t like something new until you’ve tried it. Don’t wait for the right time or the right place to write – they might never come. Just write. Listen to advice with an open mind, take it in and think about it. Eventually you’ll be able to see what’s right for you.

Once when I was doing a school visit a boy asked me quite seriously if writers ever said, ‘that’s it, I’m away for my tea?’ That’s actually a very deep question and since I was a school teacher for thirty years, I’ve heard it in many forms. What he meant was, did we sometimes give up and go off too early. I think the answer is a resounding yes. We leave the work before it’s properly edited. A first draft is not enough – unless you are quite amazingly brilliant. Put the story down, by all means, and have your tea! But pick it up again and read it – aloud preferably. Weaknesses jump out at you. Put it aside for as long as you can and then reread. It’s amazing what you’ll see and honestly, even if you’re off mowing the lawn or doing a pile of ironing, maybe even watching television, the mind continues to work away on that book.

Fabulous answers, Eileen, thank you for that wisdom.

You can find out more about Eileen and her long list of published novels on her website.

Eileen Ramsay was born and brought up in the south-west of Scotland, and used that lovely countryside in her first historical saga, The Broken Gate. After graduating, she went to teach in the USA for a year - and stayed for 18 years. Many of her special memories are connected to her time there. Once married to her Scottish scientist husband, she returned to Scotland and now lives in the north-east. After teaching for a few years, and getting up at 4am every morning to write, Eileen became a full time writer. She has since published novels, serials, short stories, and a novel for young teens. Apart from her family the great love of her life is opera.

Eileen is an honorary member of the Angus Writers Circle, and was vice president of the Scottish Association of Writers. She has been a member of the Society of Authors for many years and was on the committee of the Scottish branch for about six years, and Secretary for four. She is also a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.


Joanna said...

Absolutely fascinating, Rosemary and Eileen. Thank you.

I really like the sound of this book, especially the notion of a 'malevolent undercurrent in the villa'. That phrase rolls off the tongue so beautifully. The story sounds gripping and exciting.

I appreciate the very sound advice too, especially the thought that the creative process continues while we're ironing etc. I find that's a good time to allow my ideas to simmer and decide if they're working or not.

Lovely interview. Thank you both.

Bill Kirton said...

Good to hear you resisting genrification, Eileen. And now, having discovered that you used to get up at 4 to write, I begin to understand the meaning of 'professional'. Great interview, Rosemary.

Lesley Cookman said...

Thank you, Rosemary and Eileen. Haven't seen you much recently, Eileen. shame we live at opposite ends of the country. xx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for your lovely comment, Joanna - I too like thinking while ironing!

Thanks for dropping in, Bill - I couldn't believe that early time!

Hello Lesley - thanks for coming over to leave a comment!

Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks Rosemary. Thanks Eileen.

I'm up at five because the house is ultra quiet. There's something about writing when it's only you and the birds.

Erin O'Quinn said...

What a fascinating interview, Ros and Eileen.

Eileen, the subject of opera is dear to me, too. When only 18 and coming from a hick town in Nevada, I had a chance to see Rigoletto (with Robert McFarren) at a venue close to my college. I remember dressing up in some very dowdy dress and marching to the ticket window as though it were a movie theater, then being stunned to learn that the performance was sold out. (That story had a happy ending though). So the subject matter of your book sounds very compelling to me.

I'm just glad to know you're "out there," and now I have a neat author to ad to my short list.

All the best, Erin O'Quinn

Chris Longmuir said...

Lovely interview with a lovely lady, and what a glamorous pic. One thing Eileen didn't disclose, are you listening Bill? The reason she decided to rise at that unearthly hour to write was because a successful author (can't remember who) said that was what she did. Eileen didn't find out until years later that this writer had been joking. Eileen are you still speaking to me now, after I've disclosed your secret?

Jenny Harper said...

Great interview, Rosemary, as ever. You do choose good subjects, though!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Anne - I'm impressed at your early rise! Thanks for coming over.

Hello Erin - nice to see you here! Glad to hear you like opera too.

Oh, Chris - wait until Eileen sees that comment! Though it's quite funny.

Hi Jenny - thanks for that!

Joan Fleming said...

Another great interview, Rosemary. With a great subject! Rising at 4am sounds daunting, but if books like yours are the result, Eileen, it would be worth it. I just love the cover.

Susan Bergen said...

I love the idea of getting up at 4am to write. My father got up at that sort of time every day of his life. He always said it was the best time of the day. Unfortunately I must take after my mother! I stay up too late reading wonderful novels to ever get up so early.

Vikki said...

Really interesting interview - wise words Eileen!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Joan - even for great books, I could never get up at that time and actually work!

Hi Susan - thanks for commenting. I'm that way round too!

Hi Vikki - thanks for coming over!

Paula Martin said...

Great interview, Rosemary and Eileen. I couldn't get up to write at 4am though! I'm a night owl so all my writing is done late at night. If I'm on a roll, I may stay up until 2 or 3am though!
I tried the technique of reading my work aloud with my last novel, and now I'm a complete convert. It enabled me, not only to spot errors, but also to 'hear' my words and spot any awkward phrasing etc.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Paula - I think I need to start reading work aloud too!

Viviane Brentanos said...

Hello, Eileen,

Thank you for a wonderful interview and I am so with you on the labelling. I hate it. I realise it has to be done to some extent but, let's face it, even the toughest 'guy' novel has romance in it. My goodness, the Daniel Craig Casino Royale was mainly a romance.
Good point about reading all genres. Too many romance authors stick to their own genre. It is important to read anything and everything. I hate literary snobbery. There is something of value in every work. Do you live in Edinburgh? I was there on Tuesday. A fabulous city.

Viviane Brentanos

Viviane Brentanos said...

Oops - forgot to mention, Eileen I will soon be conducting an interview with a real life conductor and one who has his own opera company. Christian Curnyn is appearing in Glasgow tonight, conducting the wonderful Nicole Benettini. Seeing asd you are an opera buff, do you have any questions you would like me to ask him?


Maggie Craig said...

Eeek, my comment just disappeared into the ether, so I'll just say, more power to your respective elbows, both.

Looking forward enormously to reading the next Eileen Ramsay.

Deborah (Debs) Carr said...

Fascinating interview, thank you.

I love the idea of getting up at 4am to write, but I doubt I'll actually ever be able to think that early in the day.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Viviane - thanks for dropping in. Eileen will be delighted to hear you're an opera buff - she's visiting across the Atlantic at the moment but sent a quick email to say how thrilled she is with all the lovely comments. She'll hopefully get on her laptop soon.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Maggie - sometimes blogger just doesn't do what we want!

Hi Debs - thanks for commenting. I like the idea but could never do it!

Sara Bain said...

I can never get enough of Eileen Ramsay. Just when you think you know it all, she stuns you with another little snippet of her life that makes you think "wow". A beautiful interview by two very beautiful people. Thanks both.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

That's a lovely comment - thank you, Sara!

Christina said...

Great interview! And as for getting up at 4am to write - respect! The only way I ever see that time of day is if I've stayed up all night :) Look forward to reading your next novel, Eileen!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for commenting, Christina!

Gill Stewart said...

Really enjoyable interview, very interesting and inspiring (although, like Christina, you won't find me getting up at 4 a.m.!).

And now I'm off to download a certain story onto my Kindle. Did you say it was too easy to buy books this way?

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Gill - thanks for commenting. And yes, it's far too easy to download to kindle!

Talli Roland said...

Congrats to Eileen on all she's accomplished! And count me in as another who'd have *some* difficulty getting up at 4 a.m. Yikes!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Talli - you're not alone!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Many thanks to everyone who has left such encouraging comments for Eileen. Although she's across the Atlantic and not accessing the blog, she is thrilled to see so much support for her and her books.

Suzanne Jones said...

Terrific post Rosemary and Eileen. I'm very much looking forward to reading Never Call it Loving.


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for dropping in, Susan!