Today’s blog post is my first interview on the blog! My guest is author Rory Green. Rory and I crossed paths in the ‘blogosphere’ about a year ago and have been happily visiting and commenting on each other’s blogs ever since. It’s great to find a kindred spirit in cyberspace. Last autumn, as Rory described her decision to self-publish her novel, ‘Playing Along,’ I knew I wanted to read it. It was great! ‘Playing Along’ is a playful yet thought-provoking novel about an over-the-pond romance between Lexi, the American highschool cheerleader who grows into a disillusioned 30-something and George, the English schoolboy who becomes a reluctant indie rock star. Quirky and soulful, it is peopled with a delightful combination of madcap characters and characters I wanted to be my friends.
After reading it, I asked Rory if I could interview her for my blog. She most graciously agreed, supplying answers to my many nosy questions. We imagined the interview in a nice café (or possibly at a kitchen table) over tea and a biscuit. So, get yourself a cuppa and join in! And when you’re done with the interview, jump over to the Amazon kindle store (US link, UK link) and download a free copy of ‘Playing Along’ – free for 48 hours starting 20 March.
Now, for the interview:
Hi Rory, Thanks so much for being my ‘guinea pig’ interviewee. First, let me tell you how much I enjoyed ‘Playing Along’: I loved it – it was just the pick-me-up I needed to make it through in January in the UK! Also, reading about it from your blog and knowing a bit about you as a writer made it even more interesting to me. Can you tell us a little about your process in writing this book?
‘Playing Along’ was a drawn out process and was written over a number of years. I began by writing it in the background of my life because I was training to be a psychotherapist at the time and I needed a light antidote to the heaviness of the work. I initially wrote the book for my sister, and emailed her instalments! In the middle of writing the book, I moved my family from London to LA! I was so busy and stressed about the move that the book went on hold but after settling in Los Angeles, I turned my attention to the book again and began dedicating days to writing while my kids were at school. I wouldn’t say I actually had many drafts, but I did make multiple changes and edits before publishing.
You’ve shared on your blog about the decision to self-publish ‘Playing Along’. Now that the book has been out for a few months, how have you found the experience?
Self-publishing is very empowering! I loved the freedom of designing my own cover and deciding my own font and taking my work into my own hands. Initially I attempted a more traditional route and submitted to publishers via an agent. I had so much positive feedback from editors, but the sales teams were just not on board. At the time my manuscript was submitted, women’s fiction sales were apparently in decline. I’m not sure how factual that really was, but it impacted the sale of ‘Playing Along’. I made the decision to self-publish, because I believed my book had energy and appeal and I really wanted it to have a life outside of me. The hardest part now is getting people to read it and trying to build some momentum – but I have faith that it will happen!
I definitely think people will read it and the momentum will build. It’s such a vivid and entertaining story. I agree with the reviewer who was ‘certain this would be adapted into a movie in no time.’ It would make a great film. Before writing ‘Playing Along,’ what was your experience in the book world?
I had a children’s picture book called ‘Charlie’s Checklist’ published many years ago. It was the story of a dog who puts an ad in the newspaper looking for an owner – sort of like puppy Internet dating! It’s no longer in print but it was a complete thrill seeing my book in shops and I still hear from parents how much their children loved Charlie. I have such a soft spot for children’s literature. I adore the interplay between the image and text and the possibility of the story being read over and over again delights me.
You mentioned that you wrote ‘Playing Along’ as you were training to become a psychotherapist. Can you tell us about your professional background?
I studied screenwriting at university in America and went on to become a book buyer in a children’s bookstore. When I moved back to London in my early twenties – I began a degree in children’s literature and then went on to write ‘Charlie’s Checklist’. After that experience, I became very blocked creatively and felt so much pressure to be published again, which I found extremely frustrating. I became so curious about the nature of creativity and how it is both fostered and suppressed that I began to study it. My studies led me to a Masters Degree in Integrative Arts Psychotherapy, where I learned how to use all art forms to access and heal the psyche. During my studies I began writing again – for myself, rather than for others, and the process was liberating!
Therapeutically, I have worked with both children and adults. I have begun facilitating workshops that I call Write To Be You. My workshops embrace the creative process and challenge the inner critic we all harbour within. I passionately believe in the healing powers of writing! I also write a blog to support this passion www.writetobeyou.com
What have you learned from the workshops?
I feel it really is a privilege to guide people on the Write To Be You journey. Every week I am lucky enough to witness people taking risks, daring to be vulnerable and finding the courage to share their words and stories. It is a very fulfilling job and I am always profoundly impacted by the people who enroll in my workshops. They teach me to remain open and curious and non-judgemental – all crucial qualities in life.
The workshops sound marvellous. I have a background in teaching secondary English and I found the most delicate part of the endeavour was creating safe spaces for students to write, think, and play. On the rare occasions we got to that point, it was as if everyone was floating with trust. Hard to manage and maintain, though!
You and I seem to have found each other on the opposite sides of the looking glass: You were born in the UK, but have spent big sections of your life in the US, where you currently live. I am a born and bred New Mexican, but have been living in the UK for the past 6.5 years. George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying ‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language.’ What do you think of that?
I was born to a parent from each country so I think I came into the world metaphorically hovering somewhere over the Atlantic! I have lived in both places for years at a time, but still feel that the cultural differences are significant and I always feel a heart tug back to the UK when I am in the States and visa versa! Sometimes I feel so grateful to have two homes filled with people and memories who mean so much to me, but other times it feels incredibly painful and complicated. I purposefully wanted to explore the relationship between London and LA in ‘Playing Along’ because it is such a running theme in my own life.
How does being a non-native living in the US give you a different lens on daily life there?
I am definitely identified as an English person living in LA – I have an English accent, but because I spent many years here as a teenager, I also have an insider’s knowledge. LA is unlike many other parts of America and is uniquely isolated! Sometimes I feel like I am a million miles away from reality living here! But on other days I recognize that it is a city full of possibility. Many people have moved here to pursue a dream or seek out some sort of magic, and if you look carefully and retain your sense of soul and self I think it’s possible. There is a bleak side to LA of course, as there is to all cities, but I try not to focus all my energy on what isn’t working and instead dwell upon what is. I have had such a warm and welcoming response to my workshops here and I’ve attracted wonderfully intelligent, insightful participants who are self-reflective and open to change. Plus – Americans love an English accent – so that helps!
Yes, you’re right about the accent! My kids have English accents, so they can get away with murder when we visit family in the US. Is there anything miss about the UK?
Number one on my missing list is family and friends. Number two is the seasons – I hate to say it, but endless days with no distinction in the weather can be disconcerting. I miss tracking the cycle of the trees and the sky. I miss having different clothes for different months. I miss the potential for snow or daffodils. Number three on the list is walking my dog in the park. LA is a police state when it comes to dogs – they are all tightly bound to their owners and not very well socialized, plus there are very few large public spaces. In London, walking my dog on Hampstead Heath and watching her run with the wind in her ears was my idea of bliss!
Well, I’m happy to report that outside my window last week we had BOTH snow and daffodils.
I find it amazing that we’ve been able to connect over the internet and would probably never have crossed paths in ‘everyday life.’ How has social media influenced you as a writer? A promoter? A person?
I have a love hate relationship with social media! I am a person-to-person junkie so social media scares me sometimes! However, as a self-published author I am dependent on it to help me spread the word. Meeting wonderful, talented, soulful people like you, Melissa, has definitely been one of the benefits. At present I’m desperately trying but failing miserably to get people to like my ‘Playing Along’ FB page! It reminds me too much of being at school and not being accepted by the ‘popular group’! If you are reading this and feeling sorry for me(!) please go and like the page immediately! www.facebook.com/RorySamanthaGreen
Maybe they’ll like the page because they genuinely like it, too, you know.…So, what’s your next writing project?
I’m writing the sequel to ‘Playing Along’! Everyone asks me what happens to George and Lexi when the book ends. I often hear from readers that they missed them when they finished reading! I missed them too and I am thoroughly enjoying exploring how their journeys continue – together and apart.
Excellent! I’ll look forward to that, and I hope you have a great adventure finding out the rest of their stories.
Lastly, what’s the question you hoped I would ask and didn’t?
I didn’t actually anticipate what you would ask me – it’s been a pleasure answering your questions over our imaginary cup of tea! I am incredibly grateful for your support and interest, and as you know, I adore your blog and your writing! You always find a way of touching my heart.
Reminder – Rory’s novel ‘Playing Along’ is free in the Amazon Kindle store for 48 hours starting from 20 March. Here’s a link to the UK version, and here’s a link to the US version. Grab a copy and enjoy!