This evening I am joined by author Roz White, writer of The Sisterhood Series of books.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’m Roz White, I’ll be 56 this year, I’m married with three adult children. I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, but it’s really only with the advent of affordable word-processing and the self-publishing boom that I’ve been able to address my writing in terms of a very secondary career and get the work out there to a wider audience. I currently write about a group of fictional trans women (being one myself) in my series The Sisterhood, but my male alter-ego has about a dozen historical novels set in the Viking Age to his pen-name of H.A. Douglas.
I live in the beautiful Orkney Islands at the top edge of Scotland, and the day job involves mending and maintaining lighthouses!
What was you favourite book from childhood?
Oh, that’s trickier than it might appear! What age? OK, I’ve now looked at Question 2, so we’ll go with early pre-teens! I don’t remember many of my early childhood books, but the Rev W Audrey’s railway stories (now better known as Thomas the Tank Engine) were certainly around. I still have some of them, along with a very tattered copy of Winne The Pooh, inscribed for my 6th birthday.
What type of books did you read as a teenager?
I sort-of woke up in my teens, both to literature and music – and humour, come to that. Book-wise, I recall going into a bookshop by the local station on my way somewhere, and coming out with “A Princess of Mars”, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and being blown away by it! It was a time of reading long serials of books: the Mars ones by Burroughs, along with Tarzan of course; then there were “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen books, the Conan stories…and I think I would still have been reading these had I been a girl then as well. No doubt there would also have been more of what were thought of as “girl’s” books as well, and I do wonder what I missed in not getting hold of such works. But the sci-fi and fantasy stuff introduced me to concepts such as heroism, sacrifice, honour and self-esteem, and in that way they were invaluable for my development as an individual.
When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?
Now this is a tricky one, because I seem to recall hating them all! My English teacher seemed to think that great literature petered out around the time of Dickens – and of his, she chose the most long-winded, turgid, slow and dull examples she could find! I still can’t face revisiting “Nicholas Nickelby”, it’s etched in my memory as the worst book ever; when I began studying with the OU many years later there was a Dickens as required reading in my Foundation Year. But “Hard Times” was a revelation – caustic, witty, funny and sharp all the way through. I also had to go to the theatre to get over her treatment of Shakespeare, which was to play us an LP recording of a play and stop the needle every other line to examine it!
We did get to Miller’s “All My Sons”, which was immune to her assaults, and I still think it’s a powerful play for its time, if perhaps a little predictable and hackneyed in today’s age.
What is your favourite classic book?
Oh, so many! What, just one?? Oh dear… I could cheat and point to my compendium of Sherlock Holmes, but my bookshelves also contain other Conan Doyle (notably The Lost World – still a firm favourite), Dumas, Orczy… we have the Collected Works of Shakespeare, and masses of both history and science fiction going all the way back to Wells and Verne. In fact, I’m probably going to settle for Wells: The War of the Worlds is still one I go back to time after time, and to my mind the movies still haven’t done it properly yet! It’s grand themes on a very human scale: the downfall of mankind seen through the eyes of one very upper-middle-class man, in one small corner of England. It drips detail, and Wells paints the most vivid pictures in my mind every time I read it.
What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?
I don’t get to read as much as I’d like to these days, and I’m painfully aware of how much fabulous new writing there is out there that I simply don’t get to. But off-the-cuff, I’m going to say “The New Woman” by Charity Norman. The subject matter is clearly of interest to me anyway (it’s the story of a transition to female and the effects on the family around the central character) but Ms Norman writes incredibly well, and “gets” the emotions involved more than I think any other author I’ve read so far has managed. It’s a rich, rounded, detailed writing style that I find delightfully rewarding to read. I’m also going to give an Honourable Mention to Nichola Upson, who does similarly clever things with her Jaqueline Tey novels.
What book to you think you should read but never get round to?
As with question 4, so many!! The Book Club on Facebook has its weekly “hot books” and I don’t ever seem to get to any of them – though I have finally read a novel by Amanda Prowse, whose name comes up so often! But there is John Marrs, Alan Jones, Tara Lyons, Netta Newbound, all of whom regularly garner rave reviews and thus as a wannabe writer myself I really ought to be reading them and learning all I can!
What do you consider to be your favourite book ?
Again, this would probably be Wells and “The War of the Worlds”, but I strongly suspect that I don’t have a single favourite book. I have favoured biographies, for instance, and histories that I prefer over some others, as well as books like “The New Woman” that I love for completely different reasons to the ones that send me back to Wells time after time.
Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
Ah… well, not quite, though there have been some that I’ve gritted my teeth through and got to the end, and then wondered why on earth I bothered! I can’t remember the author but “The Monstrous Burdens of Professor Darkwood” is a steampunk awfulness that started well and then just fell completely to pieces, with bits exploding off in all sorts of bizarre and unexpected directions! Another was “A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza” by Pete Adams, which a number of people raved about but I found almost unreadable, it was so awful! Which is a shame, as Pete himself is a lovely chap – reminds me a bit of Tom Baker’s version of Dr Who – but there we are. I hope he doesn’t read this – or if he does, that he doesn’t take it to heart!
If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you
Oh blimey! Well, “How To Escape From A Desert Island” would be an obvious choice, or perhaps I’d have to write it while I was there! I suspect that variety would be the key here; collections of stories or such might work, so perhaps the collected Shakespeare; I’m tempted to have my collected Sherlock Holmes as the other, simply for the problem-solving stimulation in the tales, which would be a fine counterpoint to the delicate exploration of Self that The Bard excels in.
Kindle or Book?
I’m a newcomer to the Kindle – I have the app on my tablet and it’s working really well for me. But I have literally walls filled with books in the house, and there is the point that you can pull out a paperback anywhere and they don’t cause hassle when trying to board an aircraft! I think if printed books could be as cheap as kindle ones then there’d be no contest at all, but since getting the app and joining TBC I’ve bought far more kindle books than print ones, and I think that’s the telling point.
This has been fun – some of those are hard questions! Which is a good thing, I hasten to add: I enjoy thinking and being stretched a little intellectually. Many thanks for inviting me!
Oz’s latest book in the Sisterhood series is available to purchase from Amazon now.