Angela Petch Interview

I’m British but a bit of a wanderer: born in Germany, I’ve lived and worked in Italy, Holland and Tanzania, East Africa. Everywhere, I gather stories and, having been a serious bookworm all my life, I’ve now written two historical romances of my own.

What inspired you to write?
I've written stories and plays since I was a little girl and I've always read and read and read. English was my favourite subject at school, but when it came to studying at university, I never considered a degree in English. I think I thought it was more like a hobby than a subject you studied...silly me. (I have a degree in Italian, instead). My three children are independent now, so I took a writing course with Open College of the Arts and just loved it. Slowly I found my writing wings, I won a couple of awards for short stories and flash fiction. Then, in 2012, my Italian mother-in-law fell ill. I had always felt her story should be told. She was a war bride, having fallen in love with and married a British army captain when he was in the Eighth Army and fighting in the Second World War. She had told me story after story and I felt her experiences should be shared. That generation were slow at revealing the horrors and trials they endured to make sure we had freedom. We live half the year in a beautiful area of Tuscany, where the partisans were active. Our little town was occupied by the German army. So, I combined the stories of my ma-in-law and my local, elderly friends and published "Tuscan Roots". I have had some wonderful feedback from readers. This year, I published the sequel: "Now and Then in Tuscany". Not a war story, but an historical romance about the transhumance that continued in our area until the 1950's. The shepherds and herdsmen used to leave these mountains for five, long winter months each year to take their livestock down to the sea. They went for better pastures and to find work. This long absence set my imagination going. Together with extensive research, memories from my local friends and a huge pinch of imagination, I came up with my recently published book. The reviews are trickling in and I am very pleased that people seem to "get" what I was trying to do. I believe we should not forget about our past. As Cicero said all those years ago in 46 BC: "To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?"
Sorry, this is a long-winded answer to what should be a simple question? What inspired me to write? My answer is probably, a need that I couldn't ignore.

How did you tell your story? Did you use an outline, or just write your story from start to finish?
Initially I had a plan and I did need my family tree that I sketched out, to make sure I didn't make howlers - because both of my books dip back and forth and span more than one generation. However, once I started writing, some of my plans changed as I got to know my characters better and they started to go along different paths from the ones I'd planned.

Did you receive any encouragement from family and friends, or did you work on your book alone?
I received (as always) massive, sensible support from my husband. I'm not big on self-confidence, so he helped me a lot to continue when self doubt knocked at the door. I also belong to a couple of writing groups and they are brilliant with their constructive criticism.

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Without a doubt the final edit. I can pour words down and I enjoy flying free with my imagination. In the end I had to seek help from an editor to help me untangle all my flying! She suggested I cut out five of the chapters and that was hard to take at first...but I put the work to one side for a month or so and when I came back to it, I could see what she meant.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing your book?
I loved the research that I did for both books. But the most enjoyable aspect was when I received feedback from readers to say they had enjoyed my work. One old lady told me she didn't want to read another book for a while because she wanted to savour mine in her mind. I still well up if people like what I have written.

Did you experience any personal transformation after the book was published?
Maybe a little dose of increase in self confidence. I did it! I never dreamt I would ever write a book. That was what other people did.

Have you received any awards for your book(s)?
Not for my books...wouldn't that just be so great? But I have won short story competitions.

Are you working on a new book at the moment?
Yes! Something completely different. I'm developing an idea that has been floating around in my head for nearly ten years. It needs to be down on paper now. I wrote stories for my dearest friend when she was very sick with ovarian cancer. To cheer her up. She passed away and I still miss her. I shall dedicate the book to her when I've finished.

Do you have any author appearances coming up and/or are you doing any books giveaways or contests?
I am trying to be more active with social media. I have two writer friends and we all launched our books together at the end of April 2017...not long ago. Together we are making ourselves known on line. I'm sure there will be giveaways and contests devised very soon. Watch this space! (We are known as the Sea Scribes, by the way.)

What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity?
I lead quite a busy life - even though I'm supposed to be retired. We run a holiday let business in Tuscany and that takes time and energy to work successfully. So - work impedes creativity. However, I can still think about characters and plots when I'm preparing for the next guests, so it's not all an obstacle.

What strategies do you use to deal with criticism?
I try not to take it personally. I read all the time and there are very few perfect books. We all have different reading tastes too - so it is impossible to appeal to everybody. I don't mind criticism as long as it is not just for the sake of it. I digest what has been mentioned, look at my work, go away and think about it. Sometimes I take it on board and effect changes in my writing. But if I don't feel the criticism is justifiable, I stick to my guns.

Where did you grow up and what is your favorite/worst childhood memory?
I grew up partly in Rome, Italy and the remainder of my childhood in southern England. The worst childhood memory is losing my little four year old brother in a drowning accident. My favourites are many - and centred around our loving family times. My parents renovated a ruined cottage in East Sussex and we were allowed to go wild in the woods and be children, make camps, play in the fields. There was no television, so we read. And played card games. So many happy times. I still miss my parents. They died too young.

Do you have a favorite quote?
"To thine own self be true...etc. (Polonius)"

What is your favorite show on TV?
I don't watch TV much but I enjoy the Montalbano series. He is a Sicilian detective and the author is Camilleri.

Favorite movie?
Mrs Miniver

Favorite book?
At the moment - "All the light we cannot see" by Anthony Doerr - it took him ten years to write this masterpiece.

Who would you want to meet if you could? Dead or alive.
My parents once again

Is there a talent you wish you had?
I'd love to be a jazz singer and sing sassy songs, improvise and let my voice rise and fall and stun people ...

What’s something about you that would surprise us?
I ended up in a Tanzanian jail last year. The details will be saved for another story....

Describe yourself in 3 words!
impetuous, loyal, imaginative