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My Interview with Ceri Radford
Ceri Radford, author of the delightful book A Surrey State of Affairs, agreed to answer some questions for me about her book and her writing career. I hope you enjoy her answers.
When did you first create the character of Constance Harding?
Back in 2008, as a spoof blogger for a newspaper website. To start with, it was just a bit of fun Ė I liked the idea of commenting on what was going on in the news from the point of view of my clueless, curmudgeonly character Ė but Constance soon took on a life of her own.
How popular was your daily blog that featured this character?
Iím not entirely sure Ė I think it got a couple of thousand hits a week. The most encouraging thing, though, was the way in which readers reacted to her. I had a core of dedicated, very funny readers who left comments giving Constance tongue-in-cheek advice.
How did you manage to pretend so well to be this character? Did you base this character upon someone's life? Or is she a compilation of the lives of many British women?
Thank you! Constance isnít based on any real personís life, though I like the idea that somewhere out there thereís a 53-year-old bell-ringing harridan who thinks a Brazilian is a kind of cocktail. There are elements of my Mum in there (faint ones, I hasten to add, in case sheís reading: my Mum never tried to put my profile on an online dating website without my permission, at least as far as I know), and I guess she also reflects a certain, old-fashioned, stiff upper lip kind of British woman.
Why is her pet a parrot? Why not a cat or a dog?
Because a parrot can talk back.
Constance and Jeffrey travel to South America to try and reconcile their marriage. Did you travel to South America to research their travels and their adventures?
I took a trip to Argentina which definitely inspired that part of the book, although there were no amorous encounters with gauchos.
How did you come up with the name for the book? Where there any other names for it that you almost chose?
I owed the title Ė a pun on the British county where Constance lives Ė to a colleague. I am terrible at thinking up my own titles: Iím too immersed in what Iím writing to get the distance you need to sum something up in a few words. The US paperback, which is out next spring, will in fact have a different title: Constance Hardingís (Rather) Startling Year.
Are Constance's misadventures going to continue on in another book?
I wanted to try something different for my second novel, but who knows, Constance could one day wreak fresh havoc.
How long did it take you to complete this book?
I blogged as Constance for around a year before taking roughly another year to turn the idea into a book.
How much research, if any, did you have to do for this book?
Two sessions of bell-ringing, which believe me is far more complicated than it looks!
How did you choose the names for your characters?
A little at random, apart from the parrot, who is called Darcy. Thatís about as close as Constance gets to a true romantic hero.
When did you realize that you wanted to write?
Iíve always enjoyed writing. I used to write twee rhyming poems when I was a child, and then brooding self-important angst-filled ones as a teenager.
How did your career with writing begin? How has it changed?
My first job was as a graduate trainee with Reuters, the news agency, which was an excellent lesson in writing clearly and economically. Thereís nothing like a five-minute deadline to sharpen your prose style. From then on I worked for a newspaper and gradually acquired the right to use adjectives. I now mix writing my books with freelance work, but Iím lucky enough to mostly write about things that interest me, as opposed to, say, the Swiss bond market.
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