Back on my site today I am delighted to be talking again to Angela Petch, author of the acclaimed novel Tuscan Roots and supporter of aspiring writers through her writers’ workshops. Angela has had a great year and I invited her back to share some of the exciting news she has.
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourself for all the readers for whom this is their first dance with you?
Thanks for having me back – I’m so glad to know I didn’t behave (too) badly last time. Hic!
I’m a lucky lady because I live a bi-life… meaning six months by the seaside in England, near our five tiny grandchildren, and the other months in the hills of Tuscany. My husband and I run a small holiday business in Italy, renting out our converted watermill from May to October and, basically, I’m a Mrs Mop out there. But I do love looking after our guests and many of them have become friends. In fact, three lots have bought houses near us, falling in love with our unspoiled, “real” Italian corner.
And in between, I write: mainly historical novels set in Tuscany, but also short stories published in PRIMA and The People’s Friend (very supportive of new writers). Recently I published “something completely different”, as per Monty Python… (see below)…
Since we last spoke you have published another novel but it is not a straightforward telling of a story?
Mavis and Dot took me over twelve years to write. The story is about two eccentric ladies of a certain age who retire to the seaside and then find they are lonely. Despite being very different, they form a friendship and lots of adventures and mishaps start from there.
It’s a book I was compelled to finish. It started off as a short story I wrote for my best friend, who was very ill. I wanted to make her smile with my silly tale of Mavis and Dot – because they were our invented personae… we used to love hunting around auction houses and charity shops together and we called each other Mavis and Dot.
Someone and something close to your heart. But, you couldn’t finish it at the time, when she was ill?
No, her illness progressed and she passed away from ovarian cancer in 2006. I shelved the story. Some time later I read it out to my writing class. And they laughed. So, I wrote a few more and then compiled a novella, which I self- published in December 2018. Despite being asked to submit it to a couple of publishers (Harper Impulse and Bookouture), it didn’t fit in with my brand (Tuscan novels).
BUT, I’m relieved to have gone it alone. It’s a very personal tale and I wanted to be in control of its production. My friend had drawn a sketch of Mavis and Dot and I found a local artist who illustrated my novella in the same “postcard” style.
And I understand you are passing all profits from the book to charity?
Yes, all profits are going to Cancer Research. That was another reason I decided to self publish it would have been too complex a deal to have organised with a mainstream publisher.
(Does it sound like I’m inventing excuses for being rejected???) Er, no! 🤨
Mavis and Dot was released in November, a nervous time for any author, doubly so for such a personal project. How did it go?
I decided to send Mavis and Dot on a Blog Tour last November, before the official release (my first tour ever… what fun… with Rachel Gilbey of Random Resources… and I was wowed by the results. So many great reviews resulted from it:
“It’s not often I go above a 5* rating but Mavis and Dot stole my heart… utterly charming… a breath of fresh air… Petch’s writing is warm, engaging, witty and flowed seamlessly, it drew me in instantly, making for a compulsive change to read a story where the characters are of the older generation. 10 * [Dash Fan Book Reviews]
“I truly found every single character in this book endearing… I definitely hope we will get more adventures with Mavis and Dot.” [Audiokilledthebookmark]
“Every once in a while, a book comes your way that makes your heart sing. Mavis and Dot was that book for me. I think I can safely say it’s in my top three reads of 2018.” [BookaddictionUK (Wrongsideof forty)]
Wow, you must have been happy. Your little project had struck so many positive chords in people?
To say I was leaping about with joy and relief when I read those reviews is an understatement.
When I find time, I’m writing a sequel and I’m jotting down new ideas all the time.
I think Mavis and Dot would make a fantastic film or a series. Film casting – which actors would you choose as your main characters?
I like this question, because when I write, I try to picture the scene as if it were a film. It helps me to visualise settings and to “hear” characters.
Me too! My Ben in The Picture was Russell Crowe.
Dot would be Dame Maggie Smith
Mavis would be Dawn French
Lance (one of my favourite characters) would be Eddie Izzard.
Congratulations are in order being you have signed with Bookouture, super excited and happy for you! Can you tell us what it’s like being a hybrid author? How did it come about? Curious minds need to to know everything 🤩
My little journey has been along winding lanes. Originally I published my first Tuscan novel in a hurry and used a POD Company called Authors on Line. I had to pay just over £300 and another £65 for them to convert to Kindle (If only I’d known then what I know now, then I’d have saved lots of hassle). They went bust in 2014, the day before I was thinking of untangling myself from them. I lost royalties and control of my book (Never Forget was its title in those days). It’s still on Amazon for a silly price.
In 2016 I edited, changed the cover and title and republished NF on Amazon and was back in control. For a short while, my two Tuscan books were published by another Company called Endeavour Press, but they went into voluntary liquidation and decided to form a new Company… but I decided to go it alone again.
Cut to last Spring 2018 and I was approached by Bookouture. They were interested in my first Tuscan novel and wanted me to write a new Tuscan story. A two-book deal. I procrastinated – having been stung twice already – and I wasn’t in the best of health at that time either. But, lovely Bookouture were very patient with me and the more I found out about this digital publishing company, that call themselves a family, the more impressed I was about their support, expertise and general author-friendliness.
I am so proud to be a part of this family and that they wouldn’t let me go when I first turned them down.
My first Tuscan novel is undergoing changes and I’m working closely with an editor to lick it into better shape. Structural edits, line and copy edits and a final proof read are all underway, with guidance and, although it is hard work, I am up for this challenge and feel very lucky. As all indie-writers will appreciate the production process: formatting, editing, marketing etc is very time consuming. That side of the business is not my forte and it’s a relief to have this taken on by professionals. As Bookouture state in their Author Guide: “Social media is not for everyone and the most important use of your time is to write.”
My re-worked Tuscan novel will be published, with a brand-new title and cover, at the end of June 2019. I’m also writing a second Tuscan novel, which will be published in Spring 2020.
As I said in my introduction you also hold writers’ retreats. I forgot to mention they are held in Tuscany. You held on last September, how did it go? I hear there was lots of food, wine and a fantastic time was had by all.
Our first Write Away in Tuscany week last year was hard work, but a great success. We had great reviews about our competitively priced retreat:
“I leave [Tuscany] feeling refreshed, totally inspired to write and just a little bit ‘proud of myself’.” (This comment was from a novice writer who won our anonymous Flash Fiction Competition).
“Excellent value! Been like living in a film set. Such welcoming hosts and wonderful atmosphere you couldn’t buy.”
Are you holding another Write Away in Tuscany again this year?
Yes, and this year we’ve invited Kathryn and Kent Bax, from the supportive One Stop Fiction Facebook site, to lead a session on “Self-publishing Tips for Success.”
What else can the lucky people attending expect from the retreat?
We will run daily morning sessions (with optional writing exercises) on various topics, such as humour, the story, research and dialogue. The emphasis is very much on “optional” this year, as we are aware some writers might want to work on their WIPs.
There will be plenty of opportunity for sharing ideas at mealtimes and on outings in the area. Last year, the feedback was positive about “the interaction and advice from a mixed level group. [It was] very enriching… the sessions were very useful… because of the discussions.”
The group is limited to ten writers and reservations are coming in now. The message is to book soon if you are interested. Message me privately on my Author Page for further details: https://www.facebook.com/AngelaJaneClarePetch
If you could invite three people from history to a dinner party with you and the other writers in Tuscany, who would you invite and why?
This is a question I tussled with and if you were to ask me the same question again next week, it would probably change with my mood!
At the moment it would be Charles Dickens – a prolific writer and commentator on social problems of the age. I’ve read about his family home, always lively with children and pets. There was an indoor slide for his children to use instead of stairs. I reckon he was serious, with a huge fun side to his character. Conversation would be lively round the table. Maybe some of his enthusiasm and diligence with writing might rub off on us!
I think he would get on well with Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragette and shaker up of society. Sparks would probably fly but I reckon it would be really interesting.
Finally, Eric Morecambe, the comedian. He would lighten the atmosphere and his kind of slapstick humour would transcend the ages and appeal to us all. Apparently, he even laughed on his death bed.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing, marketing, or being involved with your book business? Do you have any hobbies?
I love playing tennis, but since my shoulder operation in 2017, play has had to become social rather than competitive. Walking is another passion – especially up and down the beautiful Apennines. We hardly ever meet anybody else. It’s good for the soul and for sorting out writing hiccoughs. I enjoy cooking and wine. I dabble with sewing but the rag doll I made for our only granddaughter looks more like a scary, deformed monster.
Need to know, have you mastered the Vespa yet?
Let’s just say I am not the mistress of my 1970s vintage Vespa. She is very badly behaved and has a mind of her own!
[And I am quite dangerous on her… according to my local friends!]
I was sort of hoping for a bit of a blur in the picture, to indicate speed. Meh, maybe not then…😬
Thanks again Angela. Good luck with the next Writers’ retreat, I am sure it will be as resounding a success as the first one.
I hope everyone whoe reads this has a look at Mavis and Dot. Not only a great book but for a good cause.
You can find Angela’s books on Amazon, find out more at her website and catch up with her on social media.