That is the wonderful thing about reading fiction – it allows us to transcend boundaries and wear the shoes of a range of people we would not know any other way. Through reading we connect, human to human, in spite of apparent boundaries.
Bronwyn Elsmore – 26 August 2017
The Back Flap
You can’t go back, her friends say, but Mary has to do it. Going back to her old hometown is the only way she can silence a voice from the past. And find her childhood friend, Ana.
Kui is pushing her, Ana is holding back, and between the two women there’s much to be resolved.
The plum tree and the manuka have gone, but a lemon tree thrives. The mystery surrounding the last voyage of the Marakihau may never be solved; but if Ana returns, their friendship and some things from the past can be recovered. Can’t they?
About the book
What is the book about?
So much, along these lines and themes – growing up in a small town, social changes between then and now, friendship, cross-cultural understanding, cultural heritage, historical late 20th century, nostalgia.
“Everyone knows you can’t go back. Everyone except Mary, because she’s back in her old hometown. That’s because of two people from the past – one pushing her, the other proving hard to find. The mystery surrounding the boat with painted eyes may never be solved, but if Ana returns too, perhaps some things may be resolved.”
When did you start writing the book?
The book, as it is now, about 3 years ago. But the germ existed long before that. It began as an idea I wrote as a short story, but that form could not contain all it wanted to be. I came back to that seedling story about three years ago, unearthed it, nutured it, and helped it grow.
How long did it take you to write it?
Less than a year, I think. Once it started to form it developed and grew quite quickly.
Where did you get the idea from?
I grew up in a small town that is the inspiration for the town at the centre of the story. Though the storyline and plot of Backwards Into the Future are fiction, the background very much reflects how things were when I was growing up in similar circumstances.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
No, not really. I found it a pleasure to write, though a little painful too in places. I laughed and cried as I typed.
What came easily?
Writing the parts inspired by fun memories of people and events.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
The main characters are fictitious. However, they could well be real as they so much reflect the sorts of people I knew as I grew up. Some of the minor characters do remind me very much of some living at the time, but they are long gone so will never know!
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I can not point to any that I would say influenced me to the extent that I have consciously tried to emulate them. But over so many years of reading a very wide variety of authors, I guess they have all influenced me to some extent – either positively or less so.
Do you have a target reader?
For this book, I expect it will be enjoyed most by readers who like fiction with the feel of a memoir; more mature people who like to look back and remember; younger people looking to understand what past decades were like, and perhaps the way in which their parents were raised. And, since it is set in New Zealand, all who grew up here, or are interested in this country. Having said that, I have had positive responses from readers who have quite different backgrounds. That is the wonderful thing about reading fiction – it allows us to transcend boundaries and wear the shoes of a range of people we would not know any other way. Through reading we connect, human to human, in spite of apparent boundaries.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
Go into my dedicated office.
Try to avoid interruptions. That’s easier said than done, since my office is at home. The phone rings, email messages come in, the cat wants food, and there are other things to be done.
After years of putting in long hours and pushing myself, I’m now easing up a little and allowing myself more down time.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I tend to have a different process for each work. Over my career I have written across many genres – shorter and longer fiction, non-fiction, plays. With some works I do a lot of research first – and there’s always some, no matter what I write, in order to get the facts right. Some books need more prior planning and plotting, as do plays, and others I allow to evolve with a lesser amount of pre-planning.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I do a lot of rewriting and polishing as I go. Even so, the first draft is simply that – a first draft. I am a compulsive rewriter. I never reread anything I have written without altering it in some way. That makes it so difficult to reach a point where I say, enough, publish.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Oh no, that’s something I avoid. I need to concentrate on the words. I find well-written prose has a rhythm of its own and music can interrupt it.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I have an agent to handle my plays but not for my prose works.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
My earlier books were all published through the traditional route, and some are still handled by them. I am not against working with publishers. But with new technology an author can bring out a book of comparable quality, in much less time, and keep control of their work.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
This is where I say lucky, lucky me! My son is a professional in the area of digital design, so it’s a professional job and yet I get to have more say in it than with an outside publisher.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I thought I had a plan, but I find it changes as new opportunities come up.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Don’t be in a hurry to publish. Be self-critical. Write, rewrite over and over. Polish, repolish.
Where did you grow up?
In a small town of about 5000 people, North Island, New Zealand.
Where do you live now?
In Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand. Sometimes I think I should do as the main character of my novel Backwards Into the Future does, and return to small town living. But Auckland is a beautiful place. It’s called “the City of Sails” as it’s built around two great harbours.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I believe my readers are intelligent people who bring to their reading knowledge and wisdom they have accrued throughout their lives. I respect that and like to leave spaces where I expect them to add depth according to their life experience and imagination.
What are you working on now?
A collection of short stories and another novel.
End of Interview:
For more from Bronwyn, visit her website.