Friday, May 31, 2013

Interview with Theresa Le Flem

Theresa Le Flem inherited the creative gene. Studying Art at college, her CV includes studio-potter, hairdresser, factory-worker, sales-assistant, and veterinary receptionist. With children grown-up, and five granddaughters in New York, she lives in the Midlands with her husband Graham, a greyhound, a Persian cat and two budgies. She now writes full-time.

I believe you come from an artistic family; do tell us something of your journey as a writer. How did it begin? 

My father moved our family to St.Ives in Cornwall when I was 16, to join the artists’ colony. I took a job in a café; this perhaps formed the setting for THE FORGIVING SAND. I was writing a children’s book in verse, at that time, by candlelight. I illustrated it too. I had been sending poems to publishers from the age of thirteen but without success. After hairdressing and factory work, I had my own Studio Pottery business. I wrote short-stories, but money was always tight. I didn’t have the opportunity to pursue writing seriously. Now retired, I have the luxury of time and a husband who encourages me. Having my first novel published by Robert Hale was amazing – now, with my second due out on 31st May – well, I’m still pinching myself!

Have you met any particular difficulties or rejections along the way? 

I sent my first novel: THE SEA INSIDE HIS HEAD, to seventeen literary agents, one at a time, revising it each time it was rejected. I was running out of agents to try. Then an article in The Writing Magazine spurred me into sending the first three chapters to Hale directly. After two days I received an email requesting the full MSS. I was using the public library’s computers, not having internet connection at home. After sending off the complete manuscript in hard-copy, I remember driving the four miles into town every single day just to check my emails…only to be disappointed. One day I returned home, again with no news, to find a small letter on the mat. It was from Robert Hale - they wanted to publish!

Your books explore strong themes, what made you decide to write romance?

I enjoy exploring conflicting emotions in my writing; relationships are often tested by circumstances beyond our control. Work, marriage, money. Life’s very hard. Love is never enough; there is so much pressure to earn a living, to raise children, and to retain one’s self-esteem and pride. Whether it’s bullying or bankruptcy, as in The Forgiving Sand, or the threat of unemployment The Sea inside His Head, you can tell I’m passionate about expressing feelings. I’m a romantic novelist but not one who wears rose-tinted spectacles!

Which author would you say has most influenced your work?

D.H.Lawrence I think, because he portrays passion so well. I don’t mean simply sexual, his characters are so real. Charles Dickens is brilliant and Thomas Hardy, with all that rustic angst! I also like H.E.Bates for his love of nature. I’ve learned a lot from John Braine’s book: How to Write a Novel.

Do you plan much of the book before you start or let it emerge as you write? 

I don’t plan until well into the book. The idea emerges out of a single phrase, like poetry. I deliberately gave Christina a physical disability, in The Forgiving Sand, as a sort of vulnerability. The characters usually dictate what’s going to happen to them, I hear their voices, but they often surprise me.

Considerable research must be involved in your books, how do you set about it and keep good records? 

I like old books, the internet, and I use libraries a lot. Apart from keeping a few box-files, I’m not very organised; there are books all over our house. I don’t research before I start but later on, to check dates. Because I often include social history as the background, I use a reference book of 20th Century British History to weave in news events. I bounce hard facts against the softness of romantic love and ordinary home life.

How long have you been a member of the RNA, and in what way do you think it has helped your career? 

Rosie enjoying home comforts.
I’ve only been member for a year and a half. Joining gave me a tremendous morale boost. I find the RNA helpful and friendly, and enjoy their company by email. Such a vast pool of writers as a resource is a huge asset. Their ‘non-writerly’ advice gave me my lovely rescued greyhound Rosie. I wouldn’t be without “my Romna girls” as I call them. (Apologies to any Romna boys!) Having a platform on which to publicise events is invaluable. Thank you RNA for inviting me to give this interview and actually, just for being there!

So what next? Can you tell us a little about your work in progress?

That feels a bit delicate at the moment. I’m nearing the end of the first draft of my third novel and it’s like giving birth to a baby. The surprise element is still with me until I type ‘The End’.

The Forgiving Sand  - Published in hardback on 31st May 2013 by Robert Hale Ltd.

Christina’s life in Cornwall is thrown into turmoil when ruthless brother-in-law René threatens to close down her quiet beach café which is losing money. Disabled since childhood, Christina is determined to keep the struggling family business going but neither her mother, nor her sister, seem to care. If only she could contact her father again! 

It’s 1994. The Cornish fishing industry is in crisis and lonely skipper, John Madison, widowed when his wife drowned, desperately pleads for Christina’s help with his little daughter. His passionate intensity disturbs her and yet she’s drawn to him. While René is putting the pressure on with his scheming ideas, an old school-friend, big loveable Peter, returns to Cornwall and jumps in to defend Christina - but with untold repercussions. 

Who can save her beloved Sea Café? And when John compels her to make a choice, will her heart be torn in two?

Thank you Theresa for sparing the time to talk to us today. We wish you every success with your books. 
Best wishes, Freda 

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Interviews on the RNA Blog are carried out by Freda, Henri and Livvie. They are for RNA members only, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact:


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Unknown said...

I thought the interview with Theresa Le Flem was very interesting. Having had such an artistic upbringing, it's no wonder she's a good writer. I'm half way through, The Sea Inside His Head - and really enjoying it. I look forward to reading, The Forgiving Sand. Great blog. Thank you.