It started as one
book. Really. Honestly. I wanted to write a story about
people living in Prussia in the mid-nineteenth century. The book
grew too big, and was carved into two: Prussian Yarns and
With the pressure
gone to try to make the entire story fit into one book, I settled down to
finish Prussian Yarns without the Viennese component. That
was a good theory, that was. Too bad it didn’t work out.
grew too big again.
This time it was
divided into Prussian Yarns and Winter in Paris and I
settled down to write the book without the French component. That
didn't work, either. It grew as I wrote it until it was back to
1,100 pages and had to be cut up yet again.
This time it was
carved into Prussian Yarns and There is a Season.
Again I settled
down to complete the story, this time without the element of trying to get
Hildegard off opium.
work. I had gone from one book to four and still had too much story in
each book. Now comes the tricky part: the last third of Prussian
Yarns and the first third of There is a Season were carved off
to create A Stitch in Time.
was at last finished. It's a big book at over 500 pages, but it's a
reasonable size. It has a proper beginning, middle, and end; its own
plot and sub-plots, and themes. What a relief!
At last it was
time to sit down with the pieces that had been cut off and turn them into
their own books. I settled down to work on A Stitch in Time.
You'll never believe what happened! A Stitch in Time grew too
big. Instead of being an orphan book, the stitch that connected
Prussian and Season, it developed a life of its own and
demanded to be taken seriously. I was beginning to consider that
when my school teachers said I talked too much, they might have had a
Tantrums was carved from A Stitch in Time.
Once I understood
the plots, sub-plots, and themes of Stitch it was actually very
quickly written, only four months from start to finish, the quickest one
so far. And it didn't overgrow itself. Hey! Maybe I'm
getting the hang of this writing thing.
Tantrums stalled, and wouldn't come together, so I took a break from
Prussia and wrote the greater part of a science fiction novel that isn't
After working on
the SF for a year and discovering logic bombs in it that I couldn't fix, I
set it aside and went back to Prussia. The break did my writing a
world of good, and Tinctures and Tantrums was finished in eight
months. Again I stayed within the framework of the book. I'm
getting better at this.
Finally, after so
many years of sitting and waiting, There is a Season had its turn.
Once I got into it, I was surprised by how quickly it came together.
I had been dreading it as the hardest one to write, but in actual fact it
was completed ready for my trusty band of critiquers to tear it apart in
only four months. One of the quickest instead of one of the slowest.
Next in line was
Viennese Yarns. Where I had been dreading Season, I
had been looking forward to Viennese. It had been the easiest
to write originally, taking only five months. It had been the only
one to be written straight through, start to finish, with no stopping to
go back to the beginning, no need to re-write for historical accuracy, and
no need to stop and take it apart because it was actually two or three or
four books, not one.
Once I had pulled
the idea out of the original Prussian Yarns, I sat at my computer
day after day and simply wrote Viennese, starting it when I had
double pneumonia. I was so ill I was off work for nine weeks, and so
was able to write non-stop day and night. I had three teenagers at
home at the time, and they took care of me while I was ill. I sat in
my kitchen, wrapped in a brown fluffy blanket with my feet over the heat
vent and forgot all of my troubles as the words and scenes flowed almost
of their own accord.
has a special spot in my heart because of that.
After I had
finished There is a Season and had done the first set of edits, and
started sending it off chapter by chapter to the next person who would
tell me what was wrong with it, I pulled out Viennese Yarns for my
expected joyful read and touch up.
Alas and alack!
In the 14 years since it first flowed from my keyboard onto the screen,
that computer and a subsequent one had crashed and been replaced.
Other computers had been updated or replaced before they crashed, but
there had been two catastrophic crashes with lost data. Somewhere in
there the files of Viennese Yarns had been corrupted. Huge
chunks are simply missing, not only from my hard-drive, but also from the
Always back your
work up. Always.
that renders my work unavailable, such as fire, earthquake, theft, flood,
computer crash, or stupidity is likely to render backups in the same room
unavailable as well, my writing is backed up by being sent off-site.
My wonderful son Richard stored it all on his server in another city.
Unfortunately, the version he has of Viennese Yarns is also missing
the chunks that the version on my hard drive is missing.
It would be too
easy if the paper copy was readily available. You knew it wouldn't
be, didn't you?
I am now spending
hours, days, and possibly weeks going through masses of stored paper
copies of my writing hoping against hope that I'll be able to find at
least some of the missing pieces of Viennese Yarns so that I can
reconstruct the book. Once upon a time the paper copies were neatly
stored in labelled boxes. Through floods, mishaps, curious cats, and
nesting mice, the once carefully stored piles of paper have become
jumbled. Some are simply gone forever. This is going to take
much, much longer to write than I had anticipated, and isn't nearly the
joyful romp I had looked forward to.
is done the next book will be written from scratch. It dawned on me
somewhere in the middle of Tinctures that Hildegard had been taken
off her opium and other potions against her will, and without any
counselling, since counsellors hadn't been invented yet. I know from
hearing of and seeing people fight addiction that without the willing
participation of the addict, and some kind of support system, it simply
won't work. So I have to write about what happens next before I go
on to pick up the poor orphan Winter in Paris. So, once
Viennese is reconstructed, the poor thing, The Glass Room will
be written. It will likely take upwards of a year to write.
That will give me
six books in two trilogies.
is completed, edited, and ready for publication, I have a choice of
directions to take. In the "down times" when the books I was writing
had become "stuck" instead of falling into a writers' block I would write
something else. During one of those times I started another trilogy,
which starts at the end of the Ice Age and contains Baltic Yarns,
Teutonic Yarns, and Chivalry and Chicanery. I could finish
that trilogy next, or I could finish the French trilogy which contains
Winter in Paris, A Promise to Philippe, and Of Ties and
I'll let you know when I get there.
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Born two years
after the end of World War Two, I grew up in New Zealand in a rented
farmhouse outside of a small town and was educated at home until High
School. It was an isolated life with only the brother closest to me in
age, Ron, for companionship for most of the time.
The two of us
compensated for our lack of playmates by inventing children to play with,
and inventing lives and backgrounds for their pretend friends. I've
been told I was reading by 5 and writing little fantasies by 7. By
the time I was 8 and Ron was 6 we were writing down the stories of our
pretend playmates in order to keep the details straight.
I never did play
“house” with my dolls; they were always characters in our stories.
We acted out stories, read to get ideas, and incorporated the things we
read into our never ending scripts.
It didn’t occur
to me that my pretending could lead to something acceptable in the outside
world until I was in High School. At that point a perceptive and
encouraging teacher befriended me and encouraged me to see my endless
scribbles as a talent to be developed.
publishing credit was a poem published in 1963 in a magazine called The
Postman which has long since vanished, and short fiction published in
the New Zealand Ladies Home Journal in 1964.
It wasn’t until
1983, with the encouragement of my daughter, Susanne, that I attempted to
write a book. The triumph of the completion of the first book gave
me the confidence to begin the first version of Prussian Yarns,
which was started in the autumn of 1984.
living in British Columbia, Canada, working as a legal secretary,
researching genealogy, researching for my writing, and writing another
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