Welcome to the November edition of indie author spotlight. I am pleased to welcome the gorgeous S D Mayes, author of Letters to the Pianist. She very kindly did a Q and A, but before i share that i want to share an excerpt from the book. Enjoy!
A FAMILY TORN APART … A PAST THEY CAN’T ESCAPE
In war torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the terrifying bombing of their family home. They believe their parents are dead, their bodies buried underneath the burnt remains—but unbeknownst to them, their father, Joe, survives and is taken to hospital with amnesia.
Four years on, Ruth stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist and is struck by the resemblance to her father. Desperate for evidence she sends him a letter, and as the pianist’s dormant memories emerge, his past unravels, revealing his true identity—as her beloved father, Joe. Ruth sets out to meet him, only to find herself plunged into an aristocratic world of sinister dark secrets.
Can she help him escape and find a way to stay alive?
This extract is taken from a third of the way into the story, when Edward is visiting his father-in-law’s country estate in Shropshire with his wife, Connie. The family and some mysterious guests have just eaten game for dinner, after taking part in a rather sinister pheasant shoot, and Edward has just seen the entire table, including his wife, raising a toast to Hitler. Confused and overcome with nausea he covers his mouth with his hand, and staggers towards the door.
This gives you a snapshot of the central theme of the story – how the protagonist, Edward – a Jewish man with no memory of the past, is attempting to make sense of the strange family he has married into.
Stumbling into their bedroom, Edward flopped down onto the four-poster bed. Connie swept through the door after him, her signature Chanel permeating the air like a scented breeze. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he felt her stroke his forehead, feeling the coolness of her fingers contrast with the heat emanating from his brow.
‘How are you, darling?’
He wrinkled his forehead. ‘I don’t feel well.’
‘But you must eat, Eddie. Are you going to join us later?’
He groaned. ‘I’ve got one of those awful migraines. Do apologise for me.’
Connie leant over and kissed him on the lips, stroking his cheek as he turned his face away.
‘Is everything all right, darling?’
‘I just didn’t think you were an Adolf fan?’
Connie pouted and folded her arms. ‘Oh, so that’s what this is about. Honestly, Eddie, you are being silly. I merely raised an innocent glass of claret to a dead man. We must all learn forgiveness for the damned, and I can’t sit there like a party pooper. Daddy would have thought me terribly improper for disrespecting his comrades.’
‘Forgiveness,’ said Edward, staring at her blankly.
‘Yes, Daddy’s philosophy has always been to raise a toast and bless your enemies. It’s a family superstition … in case you meet them in hell.’ Connie giggled.
He closed his eyes, feeling more confused than ever.
‘Do come down when you’re hungry, darling.’ She stood up and smoothed down her dress. ‘I can tell chef to fix you something light, perhaps some scrambled eggs and smoked salmon?’
‘Thank you,’ he said wearily. He waited for the door to shut, relieved to be left alone. Family superstition. Could that really be true? Despite the many times he tried to whitewash it, there was something about his father-in-law’s nature that was deeply disturbing. It was like hearing a violinist play a rapturous melody that lifted your spirits until, without warning, there was that one shrill, discordant note, so unbearably, piercingly out of tune, that it made you want to scream for it to stop.
Q and A
Hi Sherron, welcome to my blog. Thank you for agreeing to take part in this Q and A. I love getting to know authors and what makes them tick.
Thanks for this.
Firstly, please can you introduce yourself.
Hi, I’m S.D. Mayes and I’m the author of historical suspense novel, Letters to the Pianist. I’ve been a journalist, and author of self-help books for the last twenty years. I started writing fiction four years ago.
1)What inspired you to start writing?
In terms of fiction, it’s something I’ve always wanted to as I love storytelling and the ability to take the reader into another world. You learn so much from walking in another character’s shoes, and also get to say some very Non-politically correct things which you can pass of as your character’s traits 😊
Finding my mother, Ruth’s memoires after she died three years ago also inspired me. She wrote about how her family home was bombed in the blitz and the subsequent evacuation to stay with relatives after she and her two siblings were left orphaned. I had a real eye opener into the turmoil of that time. Ruth the protagonist is inspired by her and the bomb scenes are based on real events that she described.
I also did a ton of research, reading endless online accounts from people who lived as children during that time. I also watched many documentaries on Hitler and the aristocracy, which was a fascinating learning curve.
2)When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I first worked as a journalist over twenty years ago and started writing for national newspapers and magazines. I first considered myself an author after my first self-help book was published back in 2003.
3)What comes first, the plot or characters?
It’s hard to say, a bit of both I guess. I think of a character and also what their intention is which dictates their pathway through the story.
4)What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I get up in the middle of the night to write down ideas, so often go without sleep in the midst of a novel.
5)How do you deal with emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?
I often got upset as I was writing Letters to the Pianist because the story is so emotional. I would listen to old songs like ‘Smile’ by Nat King Cole and get really tearful thinking about what my characters were going through.
6)Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.
Probably my character Ruth who was only fourteen when she thinks her parents have died in the bombing of her home. She’s an orphan who hates herself, her nose, her spots, being overweight … plus she has to deal with an abusive uncle, but she finds strength and turns her life around.
7)Are you working on anything at the moment?
Yes, I’m working on ‘The Lodger’ which is a domestic noir novel about a single mum who loses her job and takes in a lodger through air bnb. She falls for him, but he has secrets and isn’t what she thinks … but she has secrets too that threaten to destabilize her life
8)Favorite quote (doesn’t matter the source)
Dreams and wishes and fairy tales were like icing on a mouldy cake – they can’t hide the truth – because when you take a proper bite, you choke.
Ruth Goldberg, Letters to the Pianist
9)If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Passionate, disciplined, feisty
Tea or coffee
Hot or cold
Movie or book
Coke or Pepsi
Toilet paper – over or under
Morning person or Night owl
Shower or bath
City or country
Social Media or book
Paperback or ebook
11)Share something fun or interesting about yourself that we may not know.
I was brought up in an ashram and taught to meditate at the age of six.
Thank You Sherron so much. I have loved reading all of these answers. It has been great getting to know more about you. 🙂 And what a beautiful excerpt.
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I hope you have enjoyed getting to know S D Mayes and love the sound of the book! Coming up next month i have two Spotlights to end the year, hope to see you there.