I’m very pleased to welcome Angela Barton to my Author in the Spotlight feature. I read her lovely book, Magnolia House, back in January and enjoyed following her characters through all their ups and downs.
Thanks for joining me today Angela. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I’m married with three grown up children who have now flown the nest. My husband and I live in south-west France with two old, but gorgeous, spaniels who have each had a part in Arlette’s Story and Magnolia House. I write, read, free-sew on my Singer machine, make jewellery and create framed pictures out of pebbles! I try to keep fit by walking with friends in the beautiful French countryside and I also practice Tai Chi. We planted a lavender field in 2016 which takes a lot of work, weeding and harvesting, but we make lots of lovely things with it, like soap and candles. Despite living in France, I have still never developed a taste for wine!
What inspired you to start writing?
I don’t think anything in particular inspired me. I’ve always loved making up stories since I was at school. It was only when my children left school ten years ago, that I decided to take writing more seriously. I’m never happier than when I’m tapping away on my laptop with a cup of tea on the table and my two dogs by my feet!
Tell me about your journey to publication?
Gosh, how long have you got? I’ll try and condense my publication journey!
In 2007 I woke up with a story in my head. The novel took a year of re-drafts, editing and polishing before I began to realise that I was proud of my achievement. It was the first thing I’d done for myself and I’d completed it. Perhaps it could be published? I started searching for a literary agent. I wrote down when and to whom I’d submitted – and waited. It wasn’t long before the cold shower of rejection letters started to drip onto the doormat. ‘Not quite what we’re looking for.’ ‘I didn’t quite love it enough.’ ‘Our author list is full.’ I realised that if I wanted to be published, I had to up my game. It was up to me to learn and improve my writing. So I set about doing just that.
I started novel number two. I joined a writing group Nottingham Writing Club where I won several club writing trophies. I bought how to books about novel writing, grammar, character development etc. Time passed. I joined Twitter to develop an online presence. I continued to write. I continued to submit my book. I continued to be rejected. I entered competitions – and came nowhere. I joined Facebook. I travelled to London to listen to published authors speak and attended workshops at Harper Collins Publishing. I went to masterclasses, annually visited The London Book Fair, and also listened intently at local libraries to writer interviews. I continued to write. I started my own blog and read many other authors’ blogs. More time passed. I continued to submit my book and … a London-based agent asked to see my entire manuscript. She liked it! She sent me a contract. I signed it. This was it! Or so I thought.
With the contract signed, I finished my second novel and started on my third. For the next year I intermittently heard from my agent. Each time she informed me that she hadn’t found a publisher for my novels. Significantly to me though, I was receiving more positive feedback about my books from these publishers. This encouraged me despite the continued rejections. Novel one and two were contemporary women’s fiction but for novel three and having visited France and the martyred village of Oradour-sur-Glane, I felt compelled to write my next novel in a different genre – historical fiction. I informed my agent about my decision but I got a lukewarm reception. Well, thinking back, it was an Arctic iceberg of a response. “It’s not a popular genre,” she says. I say, tell that to Georgette Heyer, Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick (who I had a lovely cup of tea a piece of cake with in Nottingham) and hundreds more very successful authors. Surely an agent supports and encourages her/his writers? Not only this, but I couldn’t enter a significant number of competitions because I HAD an agent. A part of me was saying, an agent in the hand is better than two in the bush (you know what I mean) but the other was saying, she’s actually holding me back instead of helping me.
Eighteen months after finding an agent I wrote to her and ended our contract.
Instead of feeling disheartened, I felt free. I continued to write and in whatever genre I wished to express myself. I researched. I joined a second writing group Nottingham Writers’ Studio. Several of us developed an off-shoot fiction critiquing group called Ellipses and Ampersands. We meet monthly to critique each other’s chapters and to give encouragement and support. (Hello Frances, Andy, Gaynor and Paul). I entered a national First Chapter Of An Unpublished Novel Competition AND WON! I now had an additional achievement to add to my writing CV. I pitched to agents at The London Book Fair and at the writing studio. As years had now passed by, I was watching and learning from online writing tutorials. I entered my third novel to the Festival Of Romance’s New Talent Award in 2015 and was shortlisted. I entered Choc Lit’s Search For A Star and also was shortlisted. I started book four – another historical novel set in Paris during the German occupation. I heard that Choc Lit was creating a new imprint called Ruby Fiction, for grittier novels. I submitted my third book, Arlette’s Story, and was delighted when they offered to publish all three of my completed novels. Magnolia House is the second book to be published.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Magnolia House is about a young woman who felt happy and secure with her life but without warning, everything changed. It’s about how she overcame obstacles such as rebuilding her life, learning who to trust, discovering secrets and how to overcome guilt when she found another man attractive. I think it hits a nerve because there but by the grace of God, walk all of us.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
We used to live in a house with a large magnolia tree in the front garden and our house was called Magnolia House. I also got the inspiration for my book from a house I saw in London that had a large magnolia tree too, so it seemed fitting.
How did you celebrate publication day?
Magnolia House was published in January and I spent a lovely evening with close friends.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yes. Book four has a working title of Tomorrow’s Not Promised and is set in Paris during WW2.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
What an impossible question! Probably, A Practical Course in Wooden Boat Building so I could sail back to civilisation and Waterstones and libraries!
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
Twitter – @angebarton
Facebook – AngelaBartonAuthor
Website – angelabarton.net
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I wouldn’t mind as long as I was the love interest of Tom Hardy or Cillian Murphy! ❤
My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour. Magnolia House, published by ChocLit, is available now and you can order a copy online here: Magnolia House
From the back of the book
When you open up your home and your heart …
Rowan Forrester has it all – the happy marriage, the adorable dog, the good friends, the promising business and even the dream home after she and her husband Tom win a stunning but slightly dilapidated Georgian townhouse in London at auction.
But in the blink of an eye, Rowan’s picture-perfect life comes crashing down around her and she is faced with the prospect of having to start again.
To make ends meet she begins a search for housemates, and in doing so opens the door to new friends and new beginnings. But could she be opening the door to new heartbreak too?
Don’t miss the rest of the tour