© 2013 Clive Eaton
My name is Bev Spicer and I’ve worked as a legal secretary, teacher, university lecturer and Playboy croupier. I graduated from Keele University with an honours degree in English and French literature and went on to do a PGCE (teaching qualification) at Queens' College, Cambridge.
At present, I live in France, where the weather is normally better than in Cambridge, England, where I used to work as an English lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University. I miss my friends and my work, but the pull of sunshine, great food and being able to write everyday is irresistible.
I have lived on Crete, where I learned to speak the language, taught English, and became a fitness instructor, (until my thighs became too big for my jeans). In the Seychelles I lived on Mahé, and worked for the government, teaching on the small island of St. Anne, going to work every day on a WWII landing craft, and watching out for giant centipedes dropping from the classroom rafters. I later co-designed the syllabuses for years I and II, which were used for many years - there were no books to teach from at that time, very few resources and often not enough desks or chairs for the students.
So, I've seen some of the world and want to see some more at some point. In the meantime, I write.
Book title: ‘An Accidental Killing’.
Set in SW France, the action centres on Martha Burton, a woman of independent means, who is making a new life for herself in the small village of St. Michel-le-Vieux. She begins to teach English to a pleasant enough young boy, Patrice Dumas, the son of a local notaire. Martha is oblivious to the fact that she is on the edge of an underworld of crime and danger. The reader is soon involved in a labyrinth of deceit and retribution that undermines the tranquillity of life in rural France.
What do you do to relax when you are not writing?
I rarely stop thinking about the characters in my books (sad, but true), however, when I have some time to myself I love to be outside – walking, fiddling about in the garden, reading under my olive tree. I also like to try to keep fit, but am easily bored, so I’m always experimenting with new exercises – the quicker the better! I’m a keen astronomer and like to observe the stars and read books on astrophysics, quantum theory and anything to do with new discoveries about the universe. I suppose I’m a bit of a nerd at heart.
What, or who, inspired you to become a writer?
I arrived in France five years ago and, after six months of being thrilled with doing fairly banal but extremely relaxing things, I needed more stimulation. I wrote my first book over the course of the next six months and was convinced it was a work of art! I showed it to anyone who would indulge me. At last, a friend suggested I write about my experiences as a Playboy croupier, a very kind nudge in a different direction! This turned out to be great fun and ‘Bunny on a Bike’ became my first published book. I still have ‘A Taste of Lemons’ in my desk. I think of it as the first (of many) lessons in how (not) to write!
Tell us three interesting facts about your book which are not covered in the synopsis.
1) I live in the area I’m writing about so, although this is a purely fictional work, the detail about French village life is authentic.
2) Claude Cousteau is one of my favourite characters. He is probably my most evil yet.
3) The original title was ‘The Undertaker’s Son’.
What research did you need to do for this book?
Some quite interesting research for this one: Matters of French law. The process of embalming. The psychology of a psychopath.
What or who inspired you to write your current novel?
Living in France was part of it, I suppose. I like to write about environments I know well. Most of the characters are French, so it was very interesting to explore the cultural and social idiosyncrasies of people living in a rural community which has become a second home to me.
Tell us a little about your current work-in-progress.
I’m working on a new humorous memoir in the Bev and Carol series which begins with ‘One Summer in France’ and continues with ‘Bunny on a Bike’. ‘Stranded in the Seychelles’ will be the third in the series. The girls are older this time, but not really much wiser, although there is the added pathos of reflection on a way of life which has, so far, been ridiculously carefree.
The book is based on my experiences in the Seychelles, but I have to admit that, this time, I am taking Carol along in retrospect. We had so much fun in France (‘One Summer in France’) and London (‘Bunny on a Bike’) that I wanted to have her with me in the Indian Ocean too. I hope the setting will be of interest to readers who know the islands, as well as those who have dreamed of going there.
I must say that I love writing humour – it makes me laugh!
What process did you adopt from inception through to the finished book?
I start with an idea for a storyline, usually linear, make a very few notes, keeping a record of characters – their physical appearance and personal traits or habits. Then, I embroider, adding detail, flashbacks, twists. All this inside my head, for the most part. Only when I have the shape of the book, together with a good feel for the main characters, do I begin to write. I write in character, always. If I glance up from my writing, I look around the imaginary environment I have created with the eyes of the character telling the tale. It’s like watching a film, seeing what might happen next. I’m interested in how people think, move, interact. More particularly, I am fascinated by the various personae my characters have, how they perceive and are perceived. My characters can be cold, secretive and mysterious – there is always an edge to them, something inscrutable.
What do you need (or not need) around you whilst writing?
I like to have time. Uninterrupted time. All I need is my laptop.
What prompted you to self-publish your current book?
I have made around twenty submissions and have been asked for full manuscripts five times, only to receive a polite rejection in the end. To be honest, I find the process of submitting a book to a publisher very tedious, time-consuming and ultimately (dare I say it?) inefficient. The submission guidelines are too proscriptive – why not have a little more imagination, a little more flexibility, to allow the writer to fly a little? Anyway, enough of the sour grapes! Perhaps I’ll try again one day, who knows?
In the meantime, I heard about Amazon’s self-publishing scheme and found it infinitely more attractive. The submission process is simple, with entirely professional results. No more jumping through hoops, I am in control of my work.
I have used ‘FeedARead’ www.feedaread.com to put my two memoirs into print and am delighted with the bookshop quality of the product. I have plans to put all my books into paperback format in the coming year. A lot of readers have Kindles, but there are many more who do not.
What were the three biggest challenges you faced when writing your book?
1) Being authentic, whilst avoiding writing about my neighbours!
2) The title. Still don’t know whether I like it!
3) This one has more pace, with shorter chapters. I’m waiting to see whether it will be as well received at my previous novels, which are more literary.
Every author seems to suffer with writer’s block at some point. How do you overcome it?
I work on several books at the same time (until one gets a real hold on me). There’s always something I want to be doing.
What single piece of advice would you give to any aspiring writer?
The advice I give to myself is to go slowly. Get lots of people to look at your work and listen to their comments. Never rush a book. Leave it to settle between each draft. I consider myself to be an aspiring writer. One of the most wonderful things about writing, in my view, is the satisfaction of working at something until it feels just right.
What genre does your book fall into?
This one is mystery/suspense.
How did you get interested in this specific genre?
I like my characters to work things out. Life is not easy in St. Michel-le-Vieux.
You as a reader
Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?
1) Margaret Atwood. Observational magician.
2) Sarah Waters. Masterful plotting.
3) Ernest Hemingway. For his stylistic genius.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series, under the bedclothes, by torchlight.
What is the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months?
Re-read Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood.
What was the last book you recommended to a friend, and why did you think it was worthy of recommendation?
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield was recommended to me by a friend and I have passed on the recommendation to various people – beautiful prose, elegant plotting.
Kindle (or other e-reader) or paperback, and why?
Doesn’t matter. Any form of literature is valid. The more the merrier.
Hollywood is calling
You’ve had the call from Hollywood and they want your opinion on who should play the leading roles in the film based upon your book. Who would you choose, and why?
Keira Knightley for Martha – she’d need to be quirky.
Javier Bardem (‘No Country for Old Men’) for Claude – he has a talent for evoking an almost instinctual terror.
The film of your book is now going to need a soundtrack. Which musician(s) would you want to write and play it?
This is too difficult a question for me. I know that I would need something euphoric for Martha at times, and something throbbingly dark for Claude. Suggestions on a postcard, please.
Drink – red wine or champagne!
Meal – salad with lots of seeds and nuts and my own gorgeous dressing.
Holiday destination – Greece.
TV programme – anything with Brian Cox in it
Film – latest one I really enjoyed was World War Z
Method of travel – walking
Sport – swimming
How can people connect with you?
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