‘I think it’s important for a writer to have as many strings to her bow as she can manage. It is such a volatile career, that to be completely dependent on royalties is highly stressful, and can take the joy out of writing fiction.’
I am honoured to welcome Noelle Harrison to my blog today. Noelle is the author of the recently published The Gravity of Love with Black & White Publishing.
Described as ‘bold, intimate and joyful, this glorious novel tells an unforgettable story of love’s true gravity’
I am delighted that Noelle agreed to answer a few questions for me and I’m sure you will all agree with me in saying that Noelle is one very fascinating and interesting person.
Please do read on. I know you will enjoy!!
Noelle, although London born, you have lived a rather nomadic lifestyle, now currently settled in Scotland. Can you share with us some of the places you have lived in and also how influential have your travels been on your writing?
I was born in London to an Irish mother so though I was raised in England, my identity was firmly rooted in being Irish. Since my Mum worked as a housekeeper, I grew up in other peoples’ houses. This is why I have always found it easy to up sticks.
When I was 24 years old, I relocated to Ireland, where I met my husband, and had my family. Ireland is also where I was first published.
By 2010, I wanted to explore another country, and relocated to Bergen, drawn by the stunning landscape of Western Norway. My reasons for moving to Scotland three years ago was to connect with other writers. It is a wonderful city for literature.
Many of my books are inspired by nature and landscape so by living in different locations I am constantly stimulated. I have also set books in places I have visited many times such as Arizona featured in The Gravity of Love. For me setting is as important as the characters in a book.
From a young age, I read that you were always writing down your thoughts and aspirations as you observed the world around you. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a child, it never occurred to me I could make my way in the world as a writer even though I wrote short plays to perform with friends. I wanted to be a secretary living in London. My aim was to have my own income and be independent.
I loved art as much as writing, but again I never believed I could be a painter. That was why I did a degree in History of Art at London University. Although always a big reader, it was only after I got a job as a bookseller my passion for books was ignited. My boyfriend at the time was a filmmaker and he would spend hours shut up in his room writing scripts. I got bored hanging around on my own so I found myself writing a play. It was during the production of this first play that it dawned on me – I wanted to be a writer.
Your first novel, Beatrice, was published in 2004. Looking back over the last fourteen years, since then, what do you think has been the most important lesson(s) for you as a writer?
There is opportunity in every failure or rejection. And there have been many rejections over those past fourteen years! But I can honestly say that each low moment drove me onwards. Made me even more determined to keep on writing. To sustain a career as a writer you need not just skill, but focus and endurance. The other very important lesson I have learnt is not to rely on writing as the only source of income. It puts a lot of pressure on your work, and can stifle productivity.
You have published a number of books since, your most recent being The Gravity of Love, just published with Black & White publishing. Where did the inspiration for this novel come from and can you tell us a little about the premise?
The Gravity of Love is the most personal of all my books and the story behind it is quite remarkable.
For a while, I had wanted to write a novel inspired by the life of my absent father, who was a Graphic Designer in London in the sixties. I had finally taken the plunge and written the first draft of this book, when I found my half-sister, and two half-brothers. Not only did they have no idea that I and my other brother existed, but there were some uncanny similarities between my book and the real facts. I decided I couldn’t publish this book as it would hurt my new siblings, and so I began again! I created dual timelines, brought in the Arizonan landscape, and Joy’s story inspired by my travels to Arizona searching for a friend’s birth mother.
I wanted to write a real love story. A book revealing how love can be like a force of nature, just like gravity, and like meeting my new siblings. There is no such thing as coincidence when we find those in life to love and be loved by. Although I met my father, as well, it was only through asking his help in my research for The Gravity of Love that we shared a real connection.
In The Gravity of Love, Joy and Lewis fly across the Atlantic to the Irish coast. She’s in search of a lost mother, and he’s in search of a lost love. The book is about the transformational consequences of family secrets and truths revealed.
Across all the books you have written to date, is there any particular character who stands out and why?
This is very hard to answer, but if I had to pick one character that stands out it would be June in my novel The Adulteress because the way she came to me was so powerful. June is a voice from the past. A lonely wife torn between two men during the Second World War in rural Ireland. When I was writing, her voice was inside my head, as if she was whispering the story of her life to me, just like her ghost does in the novel. It felt as if she was not my creation. I would not have been surprised if I’d discovered she had been a real woman living at that time and I was being haunted! I will never forget I had planned the ending of The Adulteress, whom June would end up with, and yet as I was writing the book, she took me in a completely different direction. The conclusion of The Adulteress was as it should be but I always felt it had been June’s choice not mine!
Noelle you are also the author of the Valentina Trilogy, writing under the pen name Evie Blake. Successfully published in over 13 countries and described as an ‘erotic, emotionally charged and addictive romance trilogy’, how do you manage writing in such very different genres. Is it difficult to switch between your two different persona?
I didn’t feel my persona actually changed when I wrote the Valentina Trilogy. They are still very akin to all my other books but with more explicit sex in them! You could take out all the erotica and the journeys of Valentina, Belle, Maria, and Tina are strong enough as stand -alone stories. However, my name was changed so readers of my Noelle Harrison novels weren’t too shocked by the erotic element, and also for marketing reasons.
At the moment, I am pursuing a Creative Writing MA at Edinburgh Napier University, and loving the challenge of writing in different genres – crime, Sci Fi and Fantasy. I think it is so beneficial for writers to stretch themselves and so many books are now blended genres that it is essential to broaden skills.
Creative workshops is an area you are also involved with. Is this for writers just starting out or for already established writers…or both? Are there any areas that you feel very passionate about when teaching?
I absolutely love teaching creative writing and have been doing it for nearly twenty years. I’ve worked with children and adults, beginners and the more experienced. When I moved to Scotland, I set up Aurora Writers Retreats (www.aurorawritersretreats.com) with the aim of collaborating with other writers, artists and yoga teachers to deliver a range of different writing courses from unblocking creativity through yoga and writing to an intense weekend course on fiction writing. My writing courses are suitable for anyone whether starting out or more established. I know myself from studying for a Masters the value of opening yourself up to new teaching no matter how experienced you are. So far, I have been running the courses in Norway and Scotland, but this year I plan to run a new writing retreat in Ireland.
As a freelance content writer and editor for websites, you continue to broaden your horizons. Where do you find the time to be a woman of so many talents?
I think it’s important for a writer to have as many strings to her bow as she can manage. It is such a volatile career, that to be completely dependent on royalties is highly stressful, and can take the joy out of writing fiction. At the same time, I love writing website content and branded storytelling with the challenge of hunting for narrative, and adding flair to the language. At the end of the day, I am writing and all I ask is that I can make a living from my skills. Time management is an issue and in truth, I do work nearly every day of the week, especially now the children have flown the nest. I don’t have to look after a family anymore and I am free to 100% devote myself to my writing.
A question I have to ask- Who is (are) your favourite writer(s), both currently and historically?
I can’t pick one! I have favourite writers for different moods and different reasons. Here are a clutch of the ones most dear to me:
Favourite Novel ~ it has to be Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. The perfect balance between romance and suspense.
The book which made me want to write ~ Country Girls by Edna O’Brien. Ireland. Secrets and lies. Clandestine love affair. So me!
Most loved author ~ Isabel Allende. I adore all her books, and find her life story so inspirational. Meeting her was a highlight in my life.
Escapist read ~ When I am feeling down, only Jane Austen will do! I can lose myself in her romances of the past, and when I come back to the present everything is better again!
Favourite poet ~ my Mum gave me Songs of Innocence by William Blake on my 9th birthday. I still have my copy and I have loved him ever since. I also adore contemporary poetry, in particular other Irish poets such as Moya Cannon, Kerry Hardie, and Vona Groarke.
Thank you so much Noelle for dropping by today and chatting with me. It was an absolute pleasure to welcome you onto my blog.
(For more details on The Gravity of Love and Noelle Harrison’s Social media links, do please continue reading)
The Gravity of Love ~ Book Information
Scottsdale, Arizona, 1989
In small-town America, Joy Sheldon loves the plants that bloom in the desert but longs too for the sea’s elemental wildness. It’s a dream never realised – and now, facing the brutal truth that her husband is a cheat, Joy learns of unimaginable secrets in her early life. Driven by betrayal and loss,and a chance encounter with the enigmatic Lewis, Joy embarks on a journey to seek her true identity – and to discover why the sea pulls so strongly at her heart.
Soho, London, 1967
Lewis Bell, abandoned by his mother and responsible for his wayward sister, is now living the dream. An ambitious young graphic designer, he’s aiming for the big time – if only he can keep his creative spark. His talented girlfriend Marnie adds pressures of her own and, as Lewis’s troubles intensify, sixties London fast shows its darker side.
Ballycastle, Ireland, Easter, 1989
Unexpectedly drawn together, Joy and Lewis fly across the Atlantic to the Irish coast. She’s in search of a lost mother; he’s looking for a lost love. They need to make peace with the past, with themselves and others. But the truths they encounter and connections they create will transform everyone’s lives forever.
Purchase Link ~ The Gravity of Love
Noëlle Harrison is the author of Beatrice, A Small Part of Me, I Remember, The Adulteress and The Secret Loves of Julia Caesar. Her Valentina trilogy was published under the name Evie Blake.
She has been translated into over 13 different languages, and has featured on Der Speigel’s Bestseller List. Noëlle was included in the National Gallery of Ireland anthology and exhibition ‘Lines of Vision, Irish Writers on Art’.
Noëlle now lives in Edinburgh where she is pursuing a creative writing Masters at Edinburgh Napier University.
Twitter ~ @NoelleHarrison