Friday, 16 January 2015

With all my books the characters arrive first...





Interview with Marcia Willett
by Agnes A. Rose




Marcia Willett began her writing career when she was fifty years old. She has written more than twenty novels under her own name as well as a lot of different short stories. She has also written four books under the pseudonym "Willa Marsh”. So far her books have been published in more than sixteen countries. The author devoted her early life to the ballet, but her dreams of becoming a ballerina ended when she grew out of the classical proportions required. She has never regretted her decision about becoming a full-time novelist. In Poland we can read three of her books such as: “A Week in Winter”, “The Children’s Hour” and “The Summer House”. Marcia lives in a beautiful and wild part of Devon where she loves to be visited by her son and young family.




Agnes A. Rose: Today my guest is Marcia Willett. Thank you very much for accepting my invitation to this online interview. Your stories are mostly about family relationships. What is the particular appeal of this genre for you?

Marcia Willett: I think I should say that my amongst families the groupings are rarely conventional ones. In Week in Winter: Maudie is Posy’s step-grandmother. In The Summer House, Lottie is Milo’s ex-wife’s sister. In the Children’s Hour, Mina lives with her crippled sister. I find it interesting to explore these dynamics.






Agnes A. Rose: Why did you begin your writing just at the age of fifty?

Marcia Willett: We had a financial crisis in the recession of the early nineties and my husband persuaded me to try to write a book – something he’d always believed I could do though I had never really considered it. I was a reader not a writer! I spent hours walking in the moors with my dogs trying to empty my mind of all the books I’d been reading, allowing my thoughts to run free, until very slowly my own characters began to make themselves known to me and a story began to build about them. It was a very exciting process and nobody was more surprised than I was when the finished result was accepted by a publisher!

Agnes A. Rose: I remember that while reading “A Week in Winter” I could not stop my emotions. Could you tell us what inspired you to write so emotional and sad story?

Marcia Willett: With all my books the characters arrive first: in this case Maudie and Posy, and then Melissa. They bring their stories and their landscapes and then it is up to me to wait, to listen, while others arrive and they show me the connections and so, slowly, the story develops. I never actually decide to write about particular issues.

Agnes A. Rose: What about Moorgate? Is it the real place or fictional one?

Marcia Willett: There are many ‘Moorgates’: houses set on the edges of the three westcountry moors that I write about. This one was of my own invention but rooted in reality.

Agnes A. Rose: In “The Children’s Hour” you focus on the problem of aging. You also write about the presence of another human being which is very important for all of us. How did you come up with an idea to combine these two issues?

Marcia Willett: I wish I could take credit for these things. It seems that there is an alternative universe flung across this westcountry in which I live and here my characters also live and work and have their being. They reveal themselves to me and I tell their stories.

Agnes A. Rose: As a writer, what elements do you find are the most crucial to include in your stories? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Marcia Willett: The most crucial element is the eternally fascinating subject of relationships. Interaction between the characters drives the books. My weakness is the plot! I rarely have one!

Agnes A. Rose: Who or what are the biggest influences in your writing? How do they influence what you create?

Marcia Willett: My biggest influence is this place where I have lived most of my life. The westcountry – Somerset, Devon and Cornwall – is a very beautiful and atmospheric place and is the major character in all of my books.

Agnes A. Rose: Do you edit and revise as you write? Or maybe you do it after you have completed the first draft? What method works best for you?

Marcia Willett: I edit and revise as I write, continually checking and improving. Once finished I re-read the book but by then most of the work is done.

Agnes A. Rose: How do you cope with the most difficult aspects of your writing? Do you believe in writer’s block?

Marcia Willett:  It certainly exists! My husband gave me the best advice which is ‘to keep hitting the keys’. It is very easy to allow this awful terror to disable me but if I type just one sentence – even if I expunge it later – it often gets the brain working. Another good thing for me is walking: moving through the countryside is usually inspiring.

Agnes A. Rose: What advice would you give to new writers, especially those looking to break into your preferred genre?

Marcia Willett: Listen to your characters.

Agnes A. Rose: 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?

Marcia Willett: I don’t have a favourite book or character but I am very fond of Oliver Wivenhoe, who has appeared in several of the books and if ‘The Sea Garden’ were to be made into a film I should like to see Benedict Cumberbatch playing Oliver. I should be so lucky!!

Agnes A. Rose: Did you have any say in the titles or covers of your books? How important do you think they are? In my opinion the Polish covers of your novels are beautiful. What about English ones?

Marcia Willett: The Polish covers are indeed beautiful and absolutely appropriate for each book. I am looking at my copy of ‘Godzina dzieci’ as I write and it is just lovely. Each country that publishes my books – and there are eighteen of them – has its own ideas for the covers and the titles, which is how it should be. My approval here in the UK is always sought but I know I have a very professional team working on my behalf and I am always ready to take advice.

Agnes A. Rose: What are you working on at the moment?

Marcia Willett: I have just finished copy-editing the book to be published here in the UK in the summer, which is set on the river Dart in the westcountry town of Dartmouth at the time of the Annual Royal Regatta.

Agnes A. Rose: Marcia, thank you very much for this conversation. Is there anything you would like to tell your Polish readers?

Marcia Willett: I should like to say how very thrilled and privileged I feel to be published in Poland. It means a very great deal to me and I hope that my Polish readers are able to relate to my ‘people’ and their landscapes and enjoy the books.

Thank you very much, Agnes, for inviting me. My very best wishes to everyone for the New Year.



If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here.





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