Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing, Dianne A Noble, the author of ‘A Hundred Hands’ and ‘Outcast’.
Hi, Dianne, thank you for agreeing to this interview, tell us a little about yourself and your background?
What have you written?
Tirgearr published my debut novel ‘Outcast’ in March 2016 as an e-book and my second book ‘A Hundred Hands’ is available now on pre-release for 99p/99c on Amazon.
Where can we buy them?
Amazon, Kobo, Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Nook.
What are you working on now?
I’m on the final edits of Oppression, a novel set partly in the City of the Dead, Cairo. It deals with the question of forced marriage and the sometimes oppressive nature of relationships. My fourth book, provisionally named The Fez House, is based in Morocco and my fifth will be about Cyprus and will cover three generations, ranging from the EOKA troubles of the 1950s, through partition in the 70s, to present day.
What’s your background?
Born into a service family I was brought up in Singapore, Cyprus and Yorkshire then went on to marry a Civil Engineer and moved to the Arabian Gulf. Since then, with sons grown and flown, I have continued to wander all over the world, keeping extensive journals of my experiences. Fifteen different schools and an employment history which includes The British Embassy Bahrain, radio presenter, café proprietor on Penzance seafront, and goods picker in an Argos warehouse, have resulted in rich seams to mine for inspiration.
I’ve always written; from editing the school magazine to short stories and letters to magazines, but it was only on retirement that I had the time for a novel. My writing is atmospheric, steeped in the smells, sights and sounds of exotic locations. I live – when not travelling – in a small, Leicestershire village. My favourite destinations – so far – have been India and Russia, with Guatemala a close third.
How did you come to write your first two books set in India?
India is an assault on the senses.
My shirt sticks to my back as I edge round a goat, swatting at flies, coughing as the smoke from pavement cooking fires catches in my throat. After four hours of threadbare sleep I’m fighting my way round Kolkata, India, trying to find the group of street children I’m here to teach English to.
The noise makes my ears hurt – shouting, blaring of horns, backfiring buses. A cow stands in the road, munching impassively on a discarded newspaper, and traffic edges round it. This creature is holy. If a driver were to run into it he would be dragged from his car by an angry crowd. The heat beats on my head like a hammer as I search among blackened buildings whose stonework crumbles like stale cake. I smell spices and sewage and urine evaporating in hot sun.
That must be the place. It takes me an age to cross the road, weaving between rickshaws, yellow taxis, tuk tuks festooned with dusty tinsel. The children are so tiny – malnourished – with bare feet, cropped hair and laddered ribs, but they shriek with laughter when I try to speak to them in Hindi. They stroke the pale skin of my arms and clamber on to my knees as I sit, cross-legged and crampy, on the bare earth floor. They are a joy, desperate to learn English, desperate to improve their position at the bottom of the luck ladder.
When I get back to my small room that evening my feet are gritty and blistered, my chest is raw with exhaust fumes and I’m filthy. Sweat makes white rivulets down the dirt on my face and I feel, and doubtless smell, rank.
By the end of my first week I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of the poverty, despairing at the smallness of my contribution. How can I possibly do this for three whole months? Whatever had I been thinking of?
What is your writing process?
I start a journal and at the end of every day, no matter how tired I am, I write down every detail of my day – how the children are progressing, who made me laugh, how much their poor chests rattle, who has the worst sores. It’s a sort of de-briefing and I find it cathartic as I realise that I’m surrounded every day by happy, smiling children. I hear laughter everywhere I go in this dreadful place and the Bengali men and women get used to seeing me, wave and call out ‘Hello, Aunty’ (a term of respect for women of a certain age!) At the wayside shrine even jolly, elephant-headed Ganesh wears a broad grin.
My diary covers three months and forms the basis for both Outcast and A Hundred Hands, which tells the story of Polly, who saw the plight of the children living on the streets and stayed to help.
How do you research your books?
I go to the places I write about, get first- hand knowledge. It’s the only way to be authentic.
What are your ambitions?
None really. It would be great to be an author of a best seller but if nobody ever bought my books again I’d still write for the sheer pleasure of it. I just love words and what you can do with them!
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I retired last year so the answer is full-time. However, when promotion and research are taken into account probably only a third of my available time is spent actually writing. Unhappily.
Where do your ideas come from?
Some writers are fortunate in that their heads are bursting with ideas. Mine isn’t. I scour newspapers, books, TV, films and plays for ideas for plots then work from there. I have no trouble in imagining settings and characters, just need the storyline that will put it all together.
Do you work to a plot or just see where the idea takes you?
I work to a plot. I did, just once, let the characters take me where they would and ended up writing myself into an impossible corner!
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
I think many writers find the solitary life difficult but it doesn’t trouble me. I couldn’t write if there were people around me and distractions. The hardest thing for me is self promotion. It doesn’t come naturally and takes up far too much of my time.
Do you get writers’ block?
No. I was given some good advice years ago. If the words won’t come, just write anything, even if you consider it to be dreadful. There’s something about writing on a pad with a pencil which unlocks the brain and you can go back afterwards and improve it. Anything is better than nothing. It can always be edited. For that reason I don’t put my work on screen until after the third or fourth edit.
Do you think the book cover plays an important part?
How do you market your work?
Twitter, Facebook, blog tours.
How do you relax?
With a book. Always.
Which writers have inspired you?
Starting from childhood: Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, D H Lawrence, George Orwell and nowadays Margaret Attwood, Anne Tyler, Khaled Hosseini, Kate Atkinson, Helen Dunmore.
What is your favourite book and why?
It changes from year to year but at the moment it’s Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns because it captures so perfectly the atmosphere in Afghanistan and the horrors of the Taliban’s rule and executions.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Have the confidence to believe in your abilities and don’t let anyone put you down.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Have the courage of your convictions and keep going. Edit your work again and again and again until it’s as good as you can possibly make it then submit it and keep submitting. I had 32 rejections
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
All the links to my online presence are shown below.
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
It was a pleasure. Thank you for your kind invitation to take part, Lawrence.