Welcome Martha Ashwell
(A link to the book will be found at the end of the interview.)
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born the second of four children and educated in Manchester. I have worked in the world of banking, social services, industry and education. Following my training as a social worker, I worked as a child care officer and later as a counsellor and intermediary for young adopted adults. I am married to David and have two sons and a daughter and four grandchildren. I began writing seriously after my retirement. I am a member of the Manchester Irish Writers and the Historical Novel Society. To date, I have published my memoir. Other works of poetry and prose are published on the Manchester Irish Writers’ blog.
What first inspired you to write?
For many years, I had wanted to write my story about the impact which a family secret had on my life. Writing my memoir provided me with a way of analysing and evaluating my experiences in order to work through a process of reconciliation.
In what genre(s) do you prefer to write?
My first attempt at writing has been non-fiction; my memoir. I’ve also enjoyed writing poetry, prose, short stories, anything which gives me satisfaction and conveys a message to the reader. Sometimes, the format will take off on its own, and what starts as a piece of prose becomes a poem. I’m happy to write in any genre and would like to remain free from categorisation.
Are you working on another book?
Currently, I am working on a series of children’s stories in collaboration with my daughter, Clare, and on a poem for the Manchester Irish Writers’ project which will be performed in March at the Manchester Irish Heritage Centre.
Another major project is an historical novel set in Northern Ireland.
If your books have required research: What do you consider the best resources?
I believe in thorough research for all my projects. This involves knowledge of similar works in that field so I read around the subject, gathering information about the social, economic and political background, historical facts, literary comments, personal accounts etc.
My main resources are: libraries, the internet and personal interviews. Personal knowledge and experience also play a part.
Do you consider your book(s) convey messages to readers?
Yes and my ability to convey a message is very important. I want to engage with my reader and pass on to them something of my own knowledge and experience. I would never seek to be patronising in any way and what I convey as a writer needs to be extremely sensitive and restrained.
For example, my memoir is about understanding, acceptance and reconciliation. It was important for me to communicate the concept of reconciliation to myself and to my reader. Therefore, I have explored the process of making peace and restoring harmony through understanding. It is about putting blame aside and accepting forgiveness as a healing element in the restorative process.
What advice would you give to authors who are just starting out?
Find a subject you believe is worth writing about. Perseverance and tenacity come in useful too. You may not get it right first time but continue to try, continue to write. Draw on your own motivation and self-confidence as a writer and see what you can achieve.
Biographies, autobiographies, memoirs: What advice would you give, about using real names and descriptions, to authors who write in this genre? I ask because many raise concerns about the issue.
As the author of a memoir it was important that I maintained confidentiality for family members or anyone who would not wish to be named. Therefore, I used false names for the majority of the characters. I used authentic names for places and for other people who would not be affected by disclosure. I described places and situations as truthfully as possible.
Do you self-edit or do you think a book should only be professionally edited?
I self-edited my memoir through many drafts but on reflection feel that I might have benefitted from professional editing. The proofreading element can be achieved fairly easily by engaging friends or family to check for errors. However, content editing is much more difficult and would probably require a more impartial approach.
The main objective is to achieve a professional outcome.
How do you go about marketing your book(s)?
My memoir was self-published so I didn’t have the usual marketing and promotional services that I would expect from a traditional publishing deal. I’ve found the following methods most helpful:
- Promotions: book launch, talks at book clubs and women’s groups.
- Interviews: Radio, TV and online.
- Newspaper and magazine articles.
- Libraries: donation of free copies to local branches.
- Amazon page.
- Author’s personal Website.
- Author’s personal Facebook page.
- Manchester Irish Writers blog.
How important do you think reviews are?
Reviews are important, particularly critical reviews at the pre-publication stage.
If you consider reviews important, how do you go about obtaining them for your book(s)?
Since publication, I have obtained a small number of reviews by personal request from other published authors and from those readers who have been kind enough to post reviews of my memoir on my Amazon book page. I have also received informal reviews, several of which I have included on my website.
Do you have a preferred genre for when you read?
I am very eclectic in my reading choices but I love classical American and English literature, historical fiction, biography, memoir, philosophy, religion and spirituality, self-help, contemporary fiction and poetry.
This is an age old question but one I consider of interest. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you like to have with you?
‘The Leopard’ by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa
‘A Month in the Country’ by J. L. Carr
Please share with us links to where readers may obtain more information and insight into who you are.
Martha’s website: http://marthaashwell.co.uk/
Martha’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Martha-Ashwell/e/B014UU3VNS/
Manchester Irish Writers Blog – Martha is a member and has contributed:
Thank you Martha for sharing your experiences and knowledge with us.
If interested, you may read T. R.’s review here.