Thursday, April 25, 2013

Author Interview with Robert Bartram

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Robert Bartram, author of Dance the Moon Down. You can read more about his debut novel following the interview.

What books have influenced your writing? 

I think that almost every book I’ve read must have influenced me in some way or another. However, one that stands out is Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”.  In my opinion it’s a book written very much before it’s time. It deals brilliantly with the psychology of human beings and that invisible force, (call it karma or fate) that motivates them. Captain Ahab is perhaps one of the best written characters I’ve come across. It’s his obsessive determination that drives the story along and influences all the other characters, until finally his paranoia destroys them all.
Sadly, the book wasn’t well received in its own time, which caused Melville to stop writing. It wasn’t until forty years after his death that it was rediscovered and hailed as a literary classic. I think there’s a morel there for all writers.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

First and foremost, I adore history.  Chiefly the period between 1850 and 1920. Writing historical
fiction  means that you have fixed points in time and immutable facts on which to anchor your story. Mind you there is an obligation to get your facts right and they should integrate seamlessly into the writing so as to compliment it and not stick out like bumps on a log. Good historical fiction gives the reader a real sense of “being there”. That’s what I like about it. With historical fiction you can stand with Lee at Gettysburg, set sail with Columbus, or shake Churchill’s hand. Come to that, you can be Churchill.

Do you work with an outline or just write?

  For me it all starts with the initial idea, which usually takes the form of a rough beginning, middle and end.  From there I develop what interests me most at the time, until I have chunks of disembodied story, which I then proceed to link up and build into chapters. Along the way new and better ideas occur to me which I also incorporate into the narrative. I’m constantly rewriting and a book can often run to several drafts. In the case of “Dance The Moon Down, it was six.

Can you tell us about your upcoming or just released book? 

 ”Dance The Moon Down” is an historical drama set against the background of the First World War. The novel attempts a new slant on an old theme by focusing on the lives of the women left behind. The books main character, Victoria, has been married for barely a year when her poet husband, Gerald, volunteers to fight and then goes missing on the Western Front, leaving her to fend for herself in a male dominated society. Her struggle to survive and her refusal to give up hope that her husband will one day return give the story, I feel, a uniquely poignant flavor.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely imagination? 

Many of the episodes that occur in the novel are based on actual events. All the accounts of country life and farming are taken from the time I lived in Cornwall during the 1950’s augmented with researched period facts. All the characters are a pastiche of various people I’ve met in life .

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? 

My favorite part was when Victoria unwittingly walks into the trap of being interrogated as a spy. It tests her character to the limit and leaves the chapter on a good cliff hanger.

How did you come up with the title?
In fact it was the title that gave me the idea for the book. In July 1914, John Galsworthy, the author of “The Forsyth Saga”  wrote in the “Nation”, a now out of print periodical, an article entitled “Studies in Extravagance, the latest thing” Basically it was a critique of the times and the younger generation in which he declared that they “had been born to dance the moon down to ragtime” Of course they in fact fought the bloodiest conflict of the twentieth century. The irony of this impressed me so much that I went on to write the novel.
What is your favorite quote and why? 

That’s easy. It comes from Oscar Wilde.  “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon  I put it back again”.   I can  really relate to that. Editing your on work is pure hell, as I think Oscar knew.

 Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Writing is a tough business, but never forget the reason why you  write. It’s for the love of story telling. Fame and fortune may elude you, but that’s no reason to give up. Remember, there’s always someone ready to listen to a good story.

 Tell us a little bit about your cover art.
 Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

The cover was created by the talented graphic artist, Siobhan Smith, based on my instructions. I wanted an image that conveyed the element of separation which also included a WW1 icon.  A battered wedding photo almost split in two by barbed wire laying on a field of poppies fitted the bill perfectly.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

 It has to be Victoria herself. Talk about an innocent abroad, but she’s a real fighter. Considering her naivety and what she was up against  I can’t help but be impressed by her. She embodies what’s  best in all of us. She’s  someone I’d like to meet in real life. To be honest, I think that I’m a little in love with her myself.

Sounds like a great book!! Thanks for the great peek inside the author and book. I love the cover and feel it definitely draws a reader into at least picking up the book and reading the synopsis. What do you think?

Dance the Moon Down by R.L. Bartram

In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumours held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father's decision to enroll her at university that began to change all that. There she befriendes the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Whittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighbouring university that sets the seal on her future. After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteeres but within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria's initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery. Now virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common labourer on a run down farm, where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustaines her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.


Author Bio:
 Born in Edmonton, London in 1951, Robert spent several of his formative years living in Cornwall, where he began to develop a lifelong love of nature and the rural way of life. He began writing in his early teens and much of his short romantic fiction was subsequently published in various periodicals, including, "Secrets", "Red Letter" and "The People's Friend".
Never one to let the necessity of making a living get in the way of his writing, Robert has continued to write for the best part of his life, whilst holding down a succession of jobs, which have included Health Food Shop Manager, Typewriter Mechanic and Taxidermist - Yes, you read that correctly.

His passion for the history of the early  twentieth century, is second only to his love of writing. It was whilst researching in this area that he came across the letters  and diaries of some women who had lived through the trauma of the Great War. What he read in them inspired him to write his debut novel "Dance The Moon Down" and the rest, as they say, is history.
Robert is single and lives and writes in Hertfordshire.

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