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Guest post from Indie Author Alex Martin

Firstly, thanks to Rebecca Stonehill for letting me chat to her followers. Nice to meet everybody!

My name is Alex Martin and I’m happy to call myself an indie writer. I’ve written four novels to date, something I never thought I’d achieve. Writing books has been a life-long dream and self-publishing has given me the opportunity to get my work out there and even be paid for it. I write in my ‘Plotting Shed’, built from a kit, at the bottom of my garden on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, UK.

I’ve learned that writing isn’t about playing God, standing back and orchestrating the characters. It’s about living the story, being there submersed in that world and becoming those fictitious people. So, believe me, I feel their pain, their anger, and their hopes and dreams become very real. To achieve this surreal state, I need a few rituals. I trudge up the garden path, laptop in hand, dog at my heels, and unlock my den. Inside smells creative.

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I light the gas fire if I need to, and a candle always, and do a little meditation. I get rid of any personal angst in my journal and clear my mind. Then, comes the moment of truth, the delicious few seconds of the blank page, willing me to cover it in potential. Hours can fly by without me noticing, until my canine muse gets bored, or we both get hungry and mundane matters puncture the bubble.

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My first book, The Twisted Vine, (click here for US Amazon and here for UK)  is set deep in rural France and is based on my own adventure of picking grapes back in the 1980s, before mobile phones and the internet were even invented, hard to imagine now! Like the narrator of the story, Roxanne Rudge, I was escaping a relationship that had gone disastrously wrong. Like her, I was trying to rediscover who I was while getting a suntan and deepening my love of this beautiful country. I too drove all over the French countryside, often lost (in more ways than one), bruised my knees and grazed my hands toiling away on steeply sloping vineyards. Luckily for me, I did not meet a sinister man like Armand le Clair or uncover the dark secret within a the elegant walls of a Burgundian Chateau, though I did drink plenty of the resulting wine!

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My second book, Daffodils, (US & UK) is quite a different tale. When my two children were born, we lived in a tiny village in Wiltshire which retained an almost feudal link to the past. Fascinated by this, I decided to write a story about it. What I hadn’t reckoned on was that setting it just at the time when the old order was disintegrating meant that I had to research the First World War, which took ten years, off and on. I hadn’t set out to write about this event but, like the naive inhabitants of those villages, I was drawn into its all-encompassing conflict. The research humbled and saddened me and I was appalled at some of the facts I discovered. I have a whole shelf of books about the war and they made for sobering reading. I was particularly shocked at the way the British Army treated their troops, some of whom were ridiculously young and of course, how women stepped into masculine roles previously barred to them. This feminist theme became the backbone of the story and is carried through the next two books.

For fans of historical fiction, Daffodils is part one of a trilogy, called The Katherine Wheel Series. It starts slowly. Life changes little in Cheadle. Petty scandals, gossip and the huge gap between the haves and those who serve them continue to dominate their small world. Daffodils drags Katy and Jem out of their narrow lives and catapults them into the wider arena of a global war. But in essence, Daffodils is a love story, whose tender heart is almost torn apart through this tumultuous time.

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I found I couldn’t leave the characters where I had left them and Peace Lily (USUK) takes up their story in 1919, in the aftermath of the war, when they return to their lives to find that peace is elusive and presents new challenges they had never expected. They even cross the Atlantic to try and resolve them. All this took yet more research – I found myself trawling through passenger lists of ocean liners, dismayed to find that a great many were still in dock after their wartime roles had stripped out all the luxuries. I studied many maps of Boston, both then and now, researched the tram system and the brownstone terraced houses and even had to find a church that would suit a certain type of wedding. Luckily my Wiltshire studies provided a rich and detailed archive to plunder for the scenes back home.

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A third book completes the trilogy… for now…called Speedwell, which follows the thread into the 1920’s andthe rapid changes of the modern age. I visited the British Motor Museum at Beaulieu and Brooklands Racing Circuit in Weybridge, where much of the story takes place. I learned more about petrol pumps and oil cans than I thought possible! Katy’s war experiences changed her life forever and she takes her new skills into an enterprise that breaks all gender boundaries and propels her, and her family, into the exciting world of motor racing. The 1920’s were a stark contrast of continuing poverty but also massive opportunities for new businesses, especially ones involved in the burgeoning industry of the motor car.

I have many more stories and projects stacked up begging to be given life in the back of my clogged up head and I can’t wait to start each and every one. My current work-in-progress is a ghost story that dips into the English Civil War – and, yes, I’m reading a whole load more books about another major conflict, one which sets brother against brother. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it and hopefully will do the same to readers. The Rose Trail should be out in 2016.

Hopefully I’ll keep writing until the marbles stop rolling.

You can keep up to date with my work on my blog at Alex Martin, Author at The Plotting Shed.

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