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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Pat Backley talks about Valentine George

Pat Backley began writing during the covid lockdowns, and she hasn't stopped since. She lives in Auckland and talks to NZ Booklovers about her latest novel, Valentine George.

Tell us a little about your novel.

Valentine George is a novel, a historical family saga and the first book in my new ANCESTORS series.

What inspired you to write this book?

After writing my first book DAISY ( another historical family saga novel, the first in the DAISY series) in 2020, I realised how passionate I was about telling the stories of ordinary people. That led me to thinking about my own ancestors and so I decided to tell their stories, to give them a voice.

Valentine George is fiction, but based on the life of my grandfather. He died when I was 17, but I knew his story well.

What research was involved?

Obviously, when you are writing about history, albeit in a fictional way, it is very important to get your facts right.

Luckily I have discovered a great joy in researching and so have thoroughly enjoyed discovering how ordinary people lived back in the 1800 and 1900’s. These days of course research is easy. The internet is a marvellous tool for us writers. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to go to the library every time you needed to check the date of a world event or what year someone famous died. Although I think I would have done very well having to spend months in exotic locations researching for my next book. In my first book I talk about London, Alabama, Harlem and New York….what fun I could have had actually being in those places while I wrote it!

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I am not a very disciplined writer!

I guess having come to it at a rather late stage (I wrote and published my first book just before my 70th birthday) I am rather free range!

Sometimes I intend to sit at my desk and write for a solid four hours. I get up after an hour to have a stretch and make a cup of coffee and then find myself, two hours later, happily weeding the garden instead!

Having said that, although I can easily get distracted, I am a fast writer and find the words flow easily when I actually discipline myself to sit down!

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

The thing I enjoyed most about writing this novel was the thought that I was giving a voice to my grandfather and all my ancestors, ordinary people who lived seemingly ordinary lives, lives that are now social history. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I am now planning a whole series of books about the people who have come before me.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

To be honest, as soon as I finish one book I start on the next one. I do have a glass or two of bubbles, but barely stop to celebrate the publication of each one, as I am already planning the next. I think being an older writer I am very aware that I need to get on with it!

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I am an avid reader and hate it when people ask me what my favourite book is. I read across so many different genres, there are so many great books out there. I guess my favourites so far this year, are the ones about peoples lives, either fact or fictional.

Two standout titles I have read recently are The Happiest Man On Earth by Eddie Jaku and To Be A King by Gunner Alan Lindbloom. He is an ex Sicilian Mafia guy, who spent 13 years in prison, where discovered he loved writing and his books are fictional accounts of his life. I was lucky enough to be interviewed by him recently on his Detroit radio show.

My life has changed dramatically in the last 18 months since I became a published author and I am so grateful.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I am now working on the next book in my ANCESTORS series and just the other day got an inspiration to write another, quite different, non- fiction book, so watch this space, they will both pop onto your bookshelves later this year!


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