Words, Wine and Cake

By Gillian Hamer and Jan Ruth

Anglesey based author Gillian Hamer interviews Conwy based author Jan Ruth for a new series of features about Welsh-based writers for on-line magazine Words with Jam.

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This month’s theme is freedom, which has influenced writers across the world for millennia, voices rising up in peace, anger, defiance and revenge – with words often the most powerful weapons. The lasting legacy today is the individual voices that come from places which have seen conflict, war and hardship – and Wales, through it’s Celtic heritage in ancient history, to its economic history in more recent times – has surely seen its share.

Gillian: As some of you will know, my books are all based in North Wales and I have a deep affinity with the country, its landscape and its people.

Here, I speak to a collection of talented writers, some who are Welsh born, others now live in Wales and some are simply moved to write about Wales or set their books there. 

Whether it’s location, language or legend – there seems to be something special about Cymru. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?

Jan: I live in Snowdonia, North Wales, UK.

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This ancient, romantic landscape is a perfect setting for fiction. I write contemporary stories about people, with a good smattering of humour and drama, dogs and horses.

My first title (Wild Water) found an agent twenty years ago but sadly didn’t find its forever home as I fell into the ‘between genre’ trap. I enjoyed another dalliance with traditional publishing through an agent who wanted to sell love stories which were not in the traditional mould, but she couldn’t raise enough finances to get the project off the ground. Hence, I went self-published and I did love the freedom of it. I wrote ‘between-genre’ to my hearts’ content. Ironic, after all this time that I’ve now been signed to Accent Press.

I’d describe my style as very contemporary fiction, mostly for women – however, lots of men have enjoyed my short stories. I use the landscape almost as a character in its own right and I do tend to write from the male perspective rather a lot (except for Midnight Sky).

Gill: What do you think Wales or Welsh history adds to literature?

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Jan: I think it adds a unique and rich diversity, one we should all be proud of. Wales is a small area but packed with so much character; legend and history, ice-age landscapes which are both dangerous and beautiful. The constantly changing weather systems; I know we moan about the rain but those sea mists and spooky clouds, when they are suspended above the valleys and draped over the castles can be dramatic, and inspirational. All of these factors blended together make for a truly inspirational setting for both contemporary and historical novels.

Gill: Name some of your favourite Welsh writers or books? 

Jan: It would have to be Dick Francis (born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire) I remember buying Dead Cert, his first title, on a caravan holiday with my parents in North Wales (Yes, it rained!) I was a moody teenager and spent the entire week reading Dick Francis novels and pestering my parents to take me to the trekking centre in Conwy. I’m a horsy girl myself so the racing background made an immediate connection with me and I went on to read all of his titles. Loved the settings and the characters. I think it proves that writing about something you feel passionate and knowledgeable about is incredibly important and I’m sure I was influenced by Mr Francis.

Gill: Tell us what books you are planning in the future that include Wales as a location?

Jan: All of them! I travelled to New Zealand, Australia and Singapore last year, thinking what a wonderful travel blog I could write on my return! Did it happen? No. I used all the material to make short stories with a Welsh setting…

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Read the full feature & discover new writers here:

http://www.wordswithjam.co.uk/2014/07…

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