Blog 102 13/09/2020 A LITERARY WORLD: An Interview with Vicky Adin
A LITERARY WORLD
An Interview with Vicky Adin
I am thrilled to have as my guest to A Literary World, the delightful Vicky Adin, an award winning historical fiction author, who describes herself as “a genealogist in love with history and words”. Vicky is someone I have known for a while now, but the first time we met in person was at the Historical Novel Society Conference 2017 in Melbourne when we sat next to each other during the dinner. She is also the first author I have interviewed on my blog from the beautiful country of New Zealand, and we share much more than writing in common. I also lived in Auckland for almost two years before coming to Australia and unbeknown to us both, we actually lived near each other, so I am familiar with the area Vicky writes about in her books. We also share a love of historical costume which Vicky weaves into her writing.
Welcome to A Literary World, Vicky. Tell us about your background? When did you decide to become an author?
I fell into writing thanks to my Master’s tutors who told me they loved my essays and I should publish. I was a genealogist long before I became a writer, and for a Creative Writing class I began to turn all my research into a dual timeline novel released in 2011 as The Disenchanted Soldier. I loved writing so much, I kept going.
What are your novels about and where are they set?
My novels are all loosely inspired by true stories about immigrants to New Zealand anywhere from the 1860s through to around 1950s. They are family life stories, tales of courage, journeys by ship to an unknown land, of love and loss, of tragedy and hope, set amid historical events of the time.
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
I have two to share.
Jane thrives in the one place where she can hide from her pain and keep her skeletons to herself. As principal costumier at Auckland’s Opera House in its Edwardian heyday, she is content – until the past comes back to haunt her.
Brigid, her beloved foster mother, and her best friend Gwenna are anchors in her solitary yet rewarding life. As the decades go by, the burden of carrying secrets becomes too great, and Jane must pass on the hidden truths.
Generations later Katie seeks refuge from her crumbling personal life with her grandmother, who lives in past with the people in her cherished photographs.
Katie learns she must identify the people behind the gentle smiles – including the Edwardian woman to whom she bears a remarkable resemblance – and reveal generations of secrets before she can claim her inheritance.
She meets the intriguing Jared, who stirs her interest, but she’s not ready for any sort of romance, so is shocked when she learns that he holds the key to discovering her past.
(Cover image supplied separately)
My current novel due for release in October 2020, which I’m really excited about, is titled Portrait of a Man.It is the soul-searching yet heart-warming conclusion to the saga of an earlier novel, The Cornish Knot.
Portrait of a Man continues the unfinished stories of the original characters and introduces new characters. Part One is set in Dunedin from 1863-1893, Part Two between 1913-1918 in Invercargill, and Part Three is set in the first six months of 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Will the secrets of the past destroy an artist’s legacy?
Matteo Borgoni is a desperate man. He must succeed if he is to free his beloved wife, held captive by her father in Melbourne. His picture framing skills establish him with the artists of Dunedin in 1863, but he has many doubts and many more obstacles to overcome.
In 1913, his nephew Tommaso, proprietor of the Invercargill branch of the Borgoni Gallery, befriends a rakish Italian portrait artist on the run from his past. As the ravages of World War One escalate, fear is constant but compassion brings unexpected consequences. A terrifying pandemic is the last thing they need.
Over a century later, a man recognises a portrait in an Auckland gallery, and demands it back. Amid another global pandemic, a marriage on the brink of failure, and a life and death decision, the portrait exposes generations of family secrets and deceptions with life-changing results.
What sort of research did the stories require?
I’m constantly doing research about the events during the time period, including the small domestic realities of being with or without electricity and running water and other such ‘modern’ expectations. Newspapers of the time are an invaluable resource. I have the digital versions available on my laptop and can look up what happened on any day. The beauty of those reports is in the detail. Reporters then wrote at great length about clothes, activities, transport and the surroundings.
Maps and council plans show the roads and buildings that once stood but have since been altered or replaced. Biographies help me understand real life characters of the time and work out how I could blend them with my fictitious characters. Even historical weather records can help, although again the newspapers also reported on the weather at major events. I find it fascinating and usually end up with far more information that I need. The decision then is, what to leave out.
Are the characters based on real people?
All my stories are inspired by a true story. Some begin from snippets of information, some follow a life journey but in a different setting or with skills the person didn’t possess. Two are biographical. They all include real life people and events.
Do you think fiction helps us understand the past?
Yes. Readers might not fully understand the deeper political intricacies of an event or time through a novel, but they are engaged with the human emotions and reactions associated with those events. Sometimes, they will learn something quite new. Through those interactions, readers can understand the changes in mores and expectations, what was acceptable then but isn’t any longer, and about other cultures, myths and behaviours. In many ways, human nature hasn’t changed as much as we’d like to think it has. We grieve, love, smile and laugh, as much today as in the past. We also get frightened, angry, and rebellious, but while our emotions are similar, our actions are not the same.
Do you have a special writing space?
I most certainly do and it’s my favourite place. We have just built a new house, with an expansive view over an estuary. In the design I included a walk-through space between the kitchen and master bedroom where my antique drop-front writing desk sits. I also have a comfy antique chair, a table and a bookcase full of my favourite books and useful research material (the other two bookcases are in my husband’s office, which is quite separate). I have all day sun, a view, and a door to the deck. I am spoilt, fortunate, lucky, say what you may… but it was all by design.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do to chill out?
I’m a great reader. These days, I try to read lots of different indie authors in the historical fiction, saga, family life, and contemporary women genres. I walk most days as the beach is about a 20-minute walk along the pathway that goes right past the front of our house. I like to garden, and travel. We have a caravan and travel around New Zealand to find all the nooks and crannies and stunningly beautiful places. We also did a lot of cruising twice around the world. That might be on hold for a while given the current situation.
Who are your favourite authors?
Catherine Cookson – I love her style (and was so pleased when one reviewer compared me to her. It made my day.)
Deborah Challinor – New Zealand’s Queen of historical fiction. I avidly read all her books and there’s lots of them.
Kath McGurl – writes intriguing dual-time historical romance stories.
Val McBeath – has written an historical series that follows her own family history set in the UK. Her current releases are about an Edwardian lady investigator and her accomplices.
Phillipa Nefri Clark – an Australian writer who mixes mystery, intrigue and romance for the young, and not so young. She has recently branched out into cosy mysteries.
Jenny Harrison – is known for her WWII stories of Poland, although she also has some earlier stories with great humour and others with ghostly mysteries.
Sara Donati – an American author known for her ‘Into the Wilderness’ series.
Diana Gabaldon who wrote the ‘Outlander’ Series.
Constable and Renoir
Favourite piece of music?
Only one? I love lots of different music genres. It’s a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, The Power of Love, but also some classical pieces like Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1, Vivaldi Four Seasons, Swan Lake and The Carnival of Animals.
What’s next for you?
Once Portrait of a Man is released then we will plan our New Zealand travels for the coming summer. Have caravan, will travel… there’s lots to see. After that, who knows. I’m sure another story idea will come to me at the right time.
The forerunner to Portrait of a Man due out later this year.
The Cornish Knot
Can one women’s secrets change the life of another a century later?
Recently widowed, Megan searches for a way forward, but first she must face the past.
“Mum!” cried Sarah. “Are you all right? I phoned and phoned. Where’ve you been? I’ve been worried. I tried your cell phone and sent you a text. Why didn’t you answer? Didn’t you have it with you?”
For a minute, Megan couldn’t get a word in edgeways until Sarah took a breath and wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck.
“Sorry, darling. I forgot about it. It’s in a drawer somewhere. I don’t use it these days.”
“Do you realise what time it is? Where have you been?” Sarah stepped back to study her mother.
“Yes, I know what time it is. I’m sorry if I worried you. I’ve been out.”
“Out! Out, where? Mum, you don’t go out.”
“Well, I will be from now on.” Megan readied herself for her big announcement. “I plan to travel.”
The look on Sarah’s face was priceless. “Pardon?”
Megan laughed, almost surprised she remembered how. “You offered to help me organise a trip or something for my birthday. Remember? I’m going to take you up on it.”
Megan looked at her watch. “I haven’t eaten for hours and I’m starved. There’s still enough time. Do you want to join me? I think I’ll go down to that little Italian place.”
“Mum, what’s got into you? This is not like you. You’re making me nervous.”
“Grab a bottle of red wine and come with me. I’ll tell you all about it.”
Megan’s eyes sparkled and her face wore an enormous grin. Feeling young and silly, she would have kicked her heels together had she been able.
Sarah reached for the phone. “Let me call Nick and tell him I’ll be late. There’s no way I’m missing this.”
“Now tell me,” urged Megan after they had settled at the table and placed their order, while the waiter poured their wine. “What’s so important you needed to ring me several times and come knocking at my door?”
“I was worried about you. You seemed down yesterday and, I might add, not keen to go out.” Sarah stared pointedly at her mother. “I thought I’d see if you were OK. When I couldn’t get hold of you, I started to wonder why you weren’t answering.”
“Oh, sweetheart. That’s kind of you, but what did you think I was doing? You don’t normally check up on me every day.”
“No. I know. But my imagination started running riot, and I had to find you. You could have had a heart attack or a fall. Or something …” Sarah trailed off. “I know that sounds silly, but I was frightened I’d lose you, too.”
“I’m sorry if I frightened you.” Megan gently squeezed her daughter’s hand across the table in apology.
“Doesn’t matter now. You’re safe. That’s all that counts. But Mum, what’ve you been doing? The change in you in twenty-four hours is not only immense, it’s alarming.”
“Well, don’t fret. I feel like a different person. My confidence is coming back, and I think I’m ready to tackle something fresh. You may not believe it, but I talked with your father in my dreams last night.”
The waiter arrived with their bread and dips, temporarily distracting them.
“Back to the point,” said Sarah, biting into a slice of ciabatta. “I’m glad to hear you’re feeling more like your old self, but talking to Dad? That’s weird.”
“It’s not weird. It makes sense to me. I’ve talked things through with your dad since I was eighteen years old. I’m not going to stop now. It helps clear things in my mind, even if I already know what he’s going to say.”
“You and Dad always did have the uncanny knack of finishing each other’s sentences. Worse still, you understood half-finished sentences that made no sense to Jason and me when we were kids.”
“Yes, well. Parents have to keep one step ahead somehow.” Megan smiled. “But you know what? I don’t think it’s that I’m back to my old self as such, but as if I’m about to find a new self.”
“Mum, now you’re really not making sense. Enough wine for you if you keep talking like this. What are you on about?”
“Ever since I opened the package from the lawyer yesterday, something inside me has woken up. Last night, I started to read that gorgeous journal. I stayed up quite late and still haven’t finished the whole thing, but I had a weird sense of belonging as I read it. The young girl writing the diary echoedmy inner self. It could have been me – except it wasn’t, of course. She wrote it a hundred years ago.”
“And I thought the letter from the stuffy sounding Great Aunt Constance was interesting, but this sounds much better. Where did you disappear to today?”
“The central library.”
Their meals arrived at that moment, and Megan’s explanation had to wait.
“This is delicious. How’s yours?” Megan asked.
“Yum, too,” Sarah agreed, refilling their wine glasses. “But what were you hoping to find at the library?”
“The lawyer hinted there might be something of great importance and value, if I can prove who I am.”
“Really? That’s exciting.”
“So, I’m on the hunt for my ancestors.”
Thank you so much, Vicky. It’s been an honour to have you as a guest on A Literary World and to hear about your work. I hope we will catch up again in the not too distant future – maybe over a seafood lunch in Auckland enjoying one of your wonderful South Island Sauvignon Blancs and talking books. On behalf of my readers, I wish you continued success.