Introducing Rosemarie Cawkwell
Writer, book blogger, and mad as a hatter, I’ve done a few different things over the years, before mental illness cut me down and forced me to look at what I really should be doing with my life. The answer is writing (and reading, and writing about reading).
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
Where do I start? I was born, I grew up…I wrote, and read, and wrote some more. I tried being ‘normal’, but it made me ill, so I stopped and thought I’d see where it led. It led first to book blogging and then to the serious endeavour of writing novels.
I’m mentally ill, and I don’t care who knows it; I’m very literal and can’t stand scientific and historical illiteracy. Someone really needs to explain social rules to me because I get myself in so much trouble…I’m autistic, although that’s currently unofficial but I’m in the process of getting that changed.
I grew up and have lived most of my life in Northern Lincolnshire; I like it here. I went straight from school to university in Durham to study Chemistry, and ended up studying Earth Sciences and Biology too. Since then I’ve worked at a theme park, cut grass for the local council, been a lab technician, worked in a fish factory and offices. None of them really suited me and to stay relatively stable I started a blog and reviewing books in 2011.
Getting seriously ill in January 2015 was, in retrospect, the best thing that could have happened to me. I can’t do ‘normal’ jobs – my mental health always suffers – and being around other people for more than a few hours at a time exhausts me to the point that I have to spend days recovering. Unable to work I started seriously concentrating on my writing. I now have two complete novels and several more in progress. I have brief plans for even more. I’m also completing a distance learning creative writing course and an MA in Creative Writing. I do rather overload myself when I find something I enjoy. That’s why I have a stack of books to review that never seems to get any shorter…
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?
I published my first book, Hidden Fire, in May 2017. It happened rather suddenly. I’ve been working on a series of fantasy novels for several years and the first was complete, had been read and edited, and a cover designed. With it all coming together, my plan to publish on my birthday in June was scuppered by my ignorance of CreateSpace. So it was accidentally released in May, a month and a half early.
The book is the first of four set in the world of Erce. The main character is a privileged young woman called Elizabeth (Lizzy) Albon who has to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around her, while surviving assassination and kidnapping attempts. When her friend Gos goes missing while spying in the Belenosian Empire, Elizabeth and her cousins sail to the rescue, and find evidence that a neighbour is planning to attack their home island of Albon.
Lizzy has been hanging around in my brain for several years and made her first appearance in a short story in 2013. The story expanded back and forth in time and became a part of the second book of four. She is wilful, bossy and not nearly as smart as she thinks she is, or would like other people to think she is. Lizzy develops over the course of the novel, slowly learning to understand herself and her place in the world.
While she is the main character, Lizzy is also part of an ensemble cast of characters, including the world of Erce. From the start the ‘Fire’ series, set in the Northern Isles and partially in the Belenosian Empire, has been a small window into the greater world of Erce, and so far I have written a short story and part of a novella exploring other parts of the world. These stories are tangentially related to the events of ‘Hidden Fire’ and the other Fire novels. It is a world like any other, where magic is real but attitudes to magic differ by nation and region.
My writing has been heavily influenced by those master world builder Terry Pratchett and J.R.R. Tolkein. For me, the world has to be fleshed out, although it can develop and reveal itself slowly, as I explore it with different stories and characters.
Who is your intended readership?
Women who love fantasy. Hidden Fire appeals to teenagers, but some of my readers are nice ladies in their eighties who don’t normally read fantasy.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember a time when I haven’t written stories of one form or another, I wrote my first novel at twelve, It was a terrible attempt to write something Enid Blytonish for a modern audience. My parents bought me a type writer and then complained because I’d stay up all night tapping away at it, I have stories popping into my head all the time, I have to write them down, or at least an outline. It’s a compulsion.
I knew at 14 that I wanted to be a writer, but got steered into something more ‘sensible’ by teachers and careers advisers. I should have ignored them and saved myself the two decades I lost.
Do you have a favorite author, or writing inspiration?
I read so many authors. My favourite, go-to, always reliable, is Sir Terry Pratchett; His Discworld series cheers me up, makes me laugh and helps me find perspective. He was a very wise man and much missed by his readers. I also enjoyed his collaborative books with Neil Gaiman (Good Omens) and Stephen Baxter (The Long Earth series). They are refreshing.
When I was a teenager my favourite author was Tamora Pierce; she had a great influence on my writing style and in writing my current series of fantasy novels I’ve noticed her influence and inspiration. That formative reading, about young women making a path for themselves continues to influence me.
What advice would you give beginning writers?
Sit down, put pen to paper, and write.
Do you have any amusing writing stories or anecdotes to share?
I’m studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Most people do the course over a year, because of my disabilities I’m doing the course over two years. After the first few weeks a group of us formed who travelled on the same train to university every Wednesday morning. We would have a brilliant time, talking all the way from Grimsby to Lincoln, some real nonsense came out of our mouths but some of it was golden. There was a lot of discussion of our writing but also random film facts, stories of our past adventures, terrible puns and mince pies. A week before we finished for the Easter break we all realised we had missed a trick, we should have been recording a podcast the entire time. Polling for names, we came up with the sensible ‘Six Writers on a Train’, and my contribution ‘Six Idiots on a Train’. Opinion was divided over which was the most appropriate,
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?
I embroider and sew, crochet and cross-stitch. I like to create, whether on paper or with fabric and thread. I also like to garden. I read voraciously, too and like to listen to true crime podcasts. I sometimes try to do all of these at once. I don’t recommend doing more than two things at once though, or it gets confusing.
What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?
Of course there’s the rest of the Fire Series, and the Tales from Erce novels, novellas and short stories, but my next big project is a series of crime novels set in Lincoln. There will be horrible murders aplenty and I’ll hope to tackle a few social issues too. Many of my characters in my fantasy series are LGBTQIA+, and that will continue in my crime novels.
Hidden Fire is a fantasy novel, the first of four set in The Northern Isles of a world called Erce, in which a young woman, LIZZY FITZALBONI, discovers herself and her place in the world. Privileged form birth, she must learn that not everyone exists to make life easy for her, while navigating a complex political world where many would like to see her dead.
The Northern Isles are four islands to the west of the great continental empire of Belenos. Midway between Belenos and the western continent of Camar, they are key trading ports, controlling the supply of furs and oils from Camar to Belenos, and of silks and spices back to Camar. When the islands go to war everyone suffers. Lizzy FitzAlboni is the illegitimate child of the King John VII of Albon. His political marriage to Jocinta Tarjani, the granddaughter of the ruler of the second largest island, Sumoast, has always been rocky. When Lizzy is kidnapped just before her 21st birthday evidence points to the queen and her kinsmen in Sumoast. Jocinta is exiled back to her family. In Albon, political and religious currents awaken as religious authorities object to the queen’s exile and the people agitate for further reform of the political system. Lizzy becomes involved, while raising her brothers. When her friend Lord Gos Val goes missing while on in Belenos, Lizzy and her friends must investigate, but are too late to prevent the war everyone knows is coming.
Where to find Rosemarie Cawkwell:
Twitter, E-mail, Blog (Rosie Writes), Facebook