Author, Nancy Jardine has invited me, and a group of British authors, to take part in ‘A Very British Blog Tour’ by visiting and supporting the websites of authors who are involved in the tour, and who are dedicated to turning out some of the finest books available in Britain today. Each author, named at the bottom of the page, has been asked the same questions, but their answers will obviously all be different. You merely click on the author’s link at the bottom of the page to see how they have answered the same questions.
So here are the questions from Nancy, together with my answers:
Q. Where were you born and where do you live at the moment?
A. I was born in Helston, Cornwall and I’m now living in Lower Willingdon, at the foot of the South Downs near Eastbourne.
Q. Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere at the moment?
A. The longest I have lived in Britain is to “retire” here these past twelve years! I was taken to Kenya as a five-year-old, and lived there for fifty-five years.
Q. Which is your favourite part of Britain?
A. In my early twenties, I visited many places over a period of three weeks, and although I haven’t been there since, the wildness of Glen Coe sticks in my mind. But what I love about Britain are the small peaceful gems – gardens and countrified places – hidden away, often within minutes of busy highways, where you can pause and take a breath.
Q. Have you ‘highlighted’ or ‘showcased’ any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town or city; a county, a monument or some well-known place or event?
A. Yes! The life of an undergraduate at Oxford University is featured in Breath of Africa.
Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish – about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the ‘Brits’ as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is that correct?
A. Being a member of the older generation, brought up to be seen and not heard, I confess I often find it hard to relax and expose my innermost feelings, but with friends, I am able to dig deep and expound.
But to try and change things? I think modern day “Brits” are good at complaining vociferously, yet deep down, we’d rather somebody else “did something” – so we have to grin and bear it.
Is the “stiff upper lip” a British phenomenon? I very much doubt it.
With age often comes illness, and the desire not to bother others, sometimes to an extreme degree. It’s a human trait, common among all nations.
Q. Do any of the characters in your books carry the ‘stiff upper lip’? Or are they all ‘British Bulldog’ and unique in their own way?
A. Not in Breath of Africa. But the book in my pipeline, incidentally based in Britain, has several stiff upper lips.
Q. Tell us about one of your recent books?
My first novel, Breath of Africa, an end of empire story due to be released on 15th March, will mean different things to different people. It can be read as a love story, a psychological thriller, or more deeply as an exploration into the interactions of people of different races. Superstition and Christian faith clash. And the stunning beauty of the country is a major character in itself.
It traces the lives of Caroline, a privileged English woman from the Kenya highlands, and Charles Ondiek, a farm labourer with dreams of Oxford.
Charles’s love for Teresa, daughter of a hated settler farmer, leads to a drama of psychological terror fuelled by Mau Mau oath administrator, Mwangi, who is held in detention for six years. On Mwangi’s release he forces Charles and Teresa apart, then turns his attention to Caroline. But she has inner resources, and joins with Charles to seek out a mysterious ancestral cave.
Against the backdrop of Kenya’s beautiful but hostile desert, the curse is finally broken. But when Caroline discovers the hidden reason for Mwangi’s hatred, she wonders if she’ll ever, really, belong in the country she loves.
Q. What are you currently working on?
A. I’m intermittently working on a completely different novella called I Don’t Want to be Here. It is about a carer who is stuck in a place she never wanted to be (plenty of stiff upper lips!)
But before that, I am putting the finishing touches to a booklet, St. Wilfrid’s – a History, published in commemoration of my church’s 50th anniversary. It will be released on 31st March.
Q. How do you spend your leisure time?
A. I like to be active, and enjoy so many things. I play tennis twice a week, weather permitting, and walk regularly with a small group, usually ending up with a pub meal. Choral singing, sometimes two or even three times a week exercises the lungs and uplifts the soul. Regular duplicate bridge games keep the mind in order. Sadly, I no longer have the opportunity to ride, but I do judge dressage 4-5 times a month, which keeps me in touch with the horsey world (I classify that as leisure). I just love bird-watching, but the British birds are frustratingly shy, so now I only carry my binoculars when I travel – I’ve “walked” round the world. My family are scattered over three continents, which accounts for prolonged periods on Facebook, and sometimes Skype. Is think that’s enough…
Q. Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?
A. I’ve done both. Years ago I compiled Museum Mixtures, a cookbook in aid of the Kenya Museum Society, and of course St. Wilfrid’s – a History is local to my area. But Breath of Africa is for the whole wide world.
Q. Can you provide links to your work?
A. Not at this current moment in time, but watch this space on 15th March 2013!
The following British, not necessarily British-based, authors have been invited to join in the fun. Once they’ve agreed, and set up their own answers on their respective websites/blogs, then clicking on their name will take you there. Also, if you are a British author and would like to join in, please leave a comment below with your email address.