Monday, 12 March 2018

#MondayMeet - S.D. Mayes

This Monday we’re thrilled to have S.D. Mayes joining us on the Pict blog to talk about her novel Letters to the Pianist.

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So Sherron, what inspired you to write Letters to the Pianist?
Discovering my mother's memoirs after she died in a box of paperwork and reading about her history. It was incredibly sad but fascinating how her family home was bombed in the blitz, and how she and her siblings were left orphaned.

Wow. I understand why you feel the need to talk about your book right now, with Mothers' Day this weekend (in the UK). Where is Letters to the Pianist set?
It's set during and just after WWII. The 1940s setting is very much a part of the storyline when three orphans are left orphaned in the blitz, until they track down their father... only to find out he's not who they think he is!

Sounds like weighty stuff. So what other books would you say are in a similar genre to yours?
The Book Thief, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Pianist.

So who is your protagonist and how did you create them as a character?
I have two protagonists: Ruth and her father, Joe. Ruth is a very rebellious 14 year old who is based on my mother at the age. She is very different from the normal female protagonist in that she's overweight, spotty and hates a lot about herself, like so many teenagers. But her gutsy spirit sees her through some challenging times. Joe is very much a likeable loving man who doesn't like confrontation - which doesn't help when faced with dilemmas. I based him on my father.

Ruth sounds like the perfect protagonist to us  Pict is about strong women in many forms. She'd probably be quite difficult to cast if Letters to the Pianist was ever turned into a film.
I don't know who I'd cast for Ruth. Perhaps an unknown actress. Michael Fassbender would be great as Joe Goldberg; Alicia Vikander as his debutante wife, Connie; and Charles Dance as the mysterious and controlling father-in-law, Henry Douglas-Scott.

That would be an awesome cast! An unknown actress would be perfect for Ruth. So how long did the process take from start to finish – from idea right through to publication?
It took about three years. It's a very complex novel in that there are a lot of twists and turns in the plot and many subplots. It took a lot of revision, beta readers and editing. Sometimes I felt like throwing the computer out of the window trying to get it right.

But I loved the story and felt I owed it my best, so I took a breather after 18 months and wrote a YA book, and then came back to it with fresh eyes, which really helped me see holes in the plot that needed to be corrected.

So after taking a break to write a YA book, how did you focus on getting your book finished?
I like to write in the living room in complete silence. Music or the television distract me so I could never write in a busy cafe like some do. I do like to wear comfy leggings and a t-shirt, so I'm focused on my writing and not feeling uncomfortable. And I wrote the book from first thing in the morning, and sometimes into the early hours - grabbing time off in between for housework or making dinner. Writing this book was an addiction to me.

Yes, many of us write because we feel we have to! Have you learned anything about yourself or your writing during this process?
Yes, I've learned a lot about my mother. We didn't always get on. Ruth was inspired by her, and it helped me understand after her death, what she went through, being orphaned, and why she was the way she was - a really tough woman, who used to wake up every morning with her fists clenched ready for a fight.

It's wonderful that you're now able to look back on your relationship with your mother with an extra level of understanding. In some ways, Letters to the Pianist is the perfect Mothers' Day gift to your mother. 

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Follow S.D. Mayes


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Letters to the Pianist is one of 10 signed indie books you can win in our March Indie Book Giveaway.

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