Thursday, January 24, 2019

Finding inspiration in strange places

Many writers are asked the question: where do you get your inspiration from?

The answer may be different for everyone. I've answered the question about the inspiration behind Eye on the Ball so many times in blog posts and author interviews. I think a better question would be to ask where did I get the idea for the series Playing for Glory from? The answer to that is totally different.

The first seed for writing romance novels about rugby might have been planted years ago while I listened to radio broadcasts with my father and the rest of the family. It might have been spending Saturdays driving from one game to the other watching my three brothers until we ended up at Loftus for the big game of the day, Northern Transvaal against whatever other team. It might have been planted on a cold and miserable November day in Edinburgh, cheering on the Springboks played against Scotland at Murrayfield. Or getting up early and staying up late to watch the World Cup, fighting with my team and for them.

No, that is also not the answer. Those were just hours and hours of research.

I believe that the first seed was planted while sipping champagne on the Fourth of July in 2016, on a boat cruise down the Hudson, watching the fireworks. A chance meeting with a young rugby player from Jersey who was my fellow passenger on the cruise, might have been the instigator. I don’t know his name but when he learned I’m South Africa, he mentioned the Springboks and that set us off talking about rugby. I discovered that night that rugby had become a global game.

I still did not know then that I was going to write about it, or that there was a romance novel somewhere buried in me. That only came on the flight from New York to OR Tambo when I could not sleep. After a couple of days overcoming the jetlag, I seemed to unpack the muse with the rest of my luggage. For six months I wrote almost non-stop until I felt brave enough to show my work to a writing coach. I still needed to do a few re-writes before I submitted Eye on the Ball and the series, Playing for Glory to publishers. But now, only eighteen months later, Eye on the Ball was released on 19 March 2018.

It just proves that you need to keep your eyes open. Be receptive. You may never know where you'll get your inspiration from.

Riley interviews Angie Summers

It is not easy interviewing a character living on the other side of the world, but finally, I’ve managed to get hold of Angie Summers. We had to do this interview by Skype and our first session was interrupted but this time I’ve managed to complete the interview. It was much easier interviewing Angie, as we’ve become friends when she was in South Africa. Unfortunately, there was one topic Angie was reluctant to talk about and that was Jakes du Plessis. I guess it is still a touchy topic.

The start of the interview was innocuous, exchanging greetings and gossiping about our friends. If I wanted to know more about Angie’s relationship with Jakes particularly, I knew I had to tread lightly. I rather started with the most obvious and that was her art.

I believe you’ve been commissioned by Nicholas Carter to make two paintings of the Cooper brothers. How do you feel about that?
Angie’s face lit up. As usual, she didn’t just use her voice to communicate. Her hands and face tells the whole story. “I couldn’t believe it when I got the email from Rachel. I’ve hardly spoken a word to Nicholas when I was in South Africa, so I didn’t even know that I was an artist and then to get such a big commission… It is amazing.”

How did Nicholas find out?
The flush on her face was unmistakable and so was her sudden withdrawal but at least she answered truthfully – not that I think Angie can hide much of her emotions. “I made a painting of Jakes and asked Rayno’s Mom to deliver it to Jakes. She left it at the Stadium with Rachel and Nicholas saw it.”

Well, I’ve seen some of your paintings, and you deserve it. What else are you working on?
Apart from those two paintings, I’ve also been selected to be part of a Young Artist’s exhibition in New York, and I am preparing for that. Nic Walters also commissioned me to do a painting of him.”

Are you painting full-time now? I remember you mentioned that you worked as an art therapist as well. “Yes, I’ve decided to paint fulltime this year. If it all goes well, I won’t go back to art therapy.”

Didn’t you like art therapy? “No, it’s not that. I loved it, but I guess I’m a bit of a softie. My heart breaks every time I have to work with an abused child or a pensioner who is so lonely, that the highlight of their week is that hour they spend with me. Maybe later, but not now.”

Have you always known that you want to be an artist or was there something else you wanted to do?” Angie didn’t even think about it. Her answer was immediate when she smiled, “That’s all I ever wanted to do. Art is like breathing for me. If I couldn’t paint fulltime, I would still have liked to have to do something with art, like the therapy or art classes.”

What do you do to relax? Angie laughed, “I paint.”

No, I mean, what else do you do? Angie wrinkled her nose, thinking hard, “I read. Listen to music, visit with my family or friends but that’s about it.”

What is your favourite holiday destination? “I loved my visit to South Africa apart from… Apart from… Geez, Riley, you know what happened.”

Not really. One day I thought things were going well between you and Jakes, and the next day you were gone. What happened? Angie shrugged, “I finally found out where I stood with Jakes. I couldn’t do it again. I had enough of the way he treated me. I never knew where I stood with him and it was just getting too much. It was as if he had a secret that stopped him from moving forward.”

I’m curious. I remember you told us how you met, and the way he spoke to you that first night when you by accident poured water over him. How come you still let him close? Weren’t you angry with him? “I was, hence the second dousing with the cold water,” Angie chuckled.

But that night when he spoke to you like that, why didn’t you react? Angie sighed, “I wish I had but I’m a typical Pisces. I don’t like confrontation at any time. I wish I could be more aggressive but I’m just not like that. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who only think of a comeback when it’s too late. When I met Jakes, I was in a difficult position. I desperately needed the job to help my friend, Clara, so I learned to keep my mouth shut, even though the customers were rude or obnoxious – which Jakes was. Also, I was so tired that night after I’ve looked after Clara’s son Thomas the previous night and the whole day when he was sick and then I had a fight with my ex. I just didn’t have the energy to fight with Jakes then.

I know it is a personal question, but I recently had an interview with Jakes and… Angie’s eyes widened and she audibly pulled in her breath. Then she asked quietly, “How is he?”

Actually, I was quite surprised by Jakes’ interview. I thought he would’ve been down after his recent injury but he was quite upbeat and open. Even though his friends were there to support him, he didn’t need them. I heard about his behaviour in the past, and it made me curious. How did you know how to deal with Jakes that he opened up to you? “I don’t know. I guess it’s just part of my nature. And you must remember, I’m a qualified art therapist. I didn’t realise it at first, but the evening he apologised, I figured out what Jakes’ problem was. I spoke to the psychologist at the Centre and she gave me valuable advice like signs to look out for and how to help him.

What is your most treasured possession?
“A charm bracelet...”

When Angie trailed off, not elaborating further, I decided to step further in the muddled waters, hoping to get to the bottom of Angie’s sudden return to the US. That Jakes was behind it was obvious, but I still hoped she would open up. Maybe it was not the best questions for her, but I know this is what the readers want to know so I persevered by asking, ‘What is your idea of an ideal date?’
I don’t like big crowds and loud music so a sunset or sunrise picnic, a walk and a surprise home-cooked dinner is far more appealing than big gestures.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
Angie sighed, looking suddenly so forlorn that I wished I hadn’t asked the question. Just when I wanted to reassure her that she didn’t have to answer, she sighed, “I do. I wish I hadn’t, but I do.”

Who are your heroes in real life?
My parents.

What is your motto?
“Chin up”

Food: Don’t laugh, but I’ve learned to love your biltong and boerewors.
Drink: Hot chocolate, coffee and wine
Colour: Green
Number: Eight
Musician/Band: calming, peaceful music, Enya,

Riley interviews Jakes du Plessis

There’s a lot more to Jakes du Plessis than muscle and strength as the eighth man for the Buffaloes Rugby Club, it appears. This fictional character in Francine Beaton’s Eye on the Ball, the first book in the Playing for Glory series, is not an easy man to interview. He doesn’t mind talking about rugby, but steer clear of other topics. This interview, however, is not about Jakes’ rugby career. I want to find out more about the man behind the devastating runs with the ball in hand.

You were baptised as John Jacques du Plessis. Why are you called Jakes?

“It is a nickname that came from high school. My family called me Jacques, as my Dad is also John. My teammates started to call me Jake. One day, after I had a good game, our coach said that it was almost as if there were two Jakes on the field.”

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Focus, I guess. I started using it as part of my therapy,” he added, rubbing the now familiar rubber band on his wrist.

What kind of therapy are you going through?
Jakes seemed reluctant to answer. He finally only replied, “Maybe I’ll tell you
another time.”

O-kay. What is your favourite holiday?
Jakes suddenly chuckled, catching me by surprise. When he noticed my reaction, Jakes smiled, “A year ago I would’ve told you is the drive through the Golden Gate to Clarens to spend on the farm with my family.”

"And now?” I queried.
“I’m surprised I’m even saying this, as someone born in sunny South Africa. But it was ten days I spent with a beautiful woman and her family in Keystone, in the very snowy Colorado Mountains.”

What is your most treasured possession?
“A couple of paintings made for me and of me by someone very special.”

He winks at me, once more refusing to elaborate.

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
I’m a sucker for crime novels and a huge fan of Dan Brown. I guess it would be Robert Langdon then, closely followed by Superman.

What is your idea of an ideal date?
“I think an ideal date should be any time you spend with someone special. Having said that, I like to cook. Maybe I’ll cook her a special meal, with candles and everything.”

Do you believe in love at first sight?
"If I haven’t experienced it, I would have said no…”

I could see that Jakes realised that he said more than he wanted to, as his voice trailed off and a flush spread over his face. I pretended to ignore it and carried on with the interview.

Who are your heroes in real life?
"My teammates."

What is your motto?
"Remember your focus. Remember your team. Remember the glory."

Food: Braaivleis (Barbequed meat)
Drink: Hot chocolate, beer and wine
Colour: Red
Number: Eight
Musician/Band: Eurythmics

If you want to know more about Jakes and the special someone he still hasn’t named, follow this link:

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Author Interview: Maureen Shigeno

Introduction- 9/12/18

Q1. Where are you from?

A. "I was born and bred in Pretoria, South Africa. After traveling for a while, we moved back to Pretoria five years ago. Soon we’ll be nomads again, with Scotland our base."

Q2. What genres and sub-genres do you write?

A. "I write contemporary romance. My one series has sports, and particularly, rugby as a theme (Playing for Glory). The other series food and drinks as a theme (Taste for Love), Blue Mountain is a family saga set in the Winelands of South Africa. You’ve probably noticed that I love series/sagas."

Q3. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

A. "I’m also a keen photographer and artist."

Q4. Did you always want to be a writer?

A. "No, I never thought about writing. I’ve blogged, wrote technical stuff, but never remotely I’ll be a fiction writer. I only started writing in July 2016."

Q5. What is your time of year?

A. "I love all seasons for different reasons, but if I have to choose it will be possibly spring and autumn (fall). Spring literally put a spring in my step. It’s probably because, a dreary winter, everything is suddenly bright and vibrant and full of life. I love the northern hemisphere autumns, because of the colors. Here in the southern you don’t have these seasons like you have in the northern hemisphere."

Q6. How many books do you have out currently?

A. "My third book, Obstruction, will be published on 1 September, and my fourth, Making the Right Call, in October. I’m also publishing three novellas between October and November, which will be released as a box set in December in English and Afrikaans. So, to answer your question, currently two—by the end of November 10!"

Q7. Wow! You've been busy. It's amazing how fast your putting them out. It really shows your dedication to your work. What is your favorite song? (video posted above)

A. "Ooh, I have so many favorites, how can I choose? Okay, let me give you one current : Ed Sheeran’s Perfect. I’m actually using it in a new novel as the music for a modern ballet."

Q8. Are you a full-time writer or do you have an outside job?

A. "I’m one of the lucky ones being able to write full-time."

Q9. What is the best part of your day?

A. "Mornings – I’m my most creative early in the mornings. Evenings because that is the time I spend with my family."

Q10. Can you tell me a bit more about yourself that maybe not many fans know?

A. "I have my own romance story. I met my husband on a Saturday, 6 June. I saw him on and the Monday before he had to leave to join his ship – he was in the British Merchant Navy. The next time I saw him was on 30 October the same year, when I him in Scotland. Those days were the beginning of the internet and cell phones. Our contact was sporadic at first, with him at sea and then on a course in Aberdeen. We had to rely on letters while he was at sea, and then later on, when he was in Aberdeen, we could email. We were both 35 when we met and I at that stage, although I had many friends and social life, had given up on finding . And then I met him on a cold, miserable day in Cape Town, and the rest is history."

Francine's closing words for fans/ followers:

"Thank you for reading my books. No author can exist without the support of our readers, and we love to get feedback from you. Leave a review if you can or, just send me a message. "

I had the pleasure of meeting Francine on a Facebook group site a few months ago. It was instant friendship. Whenever we start talking, we just go on and on. She is a wonderful, talented woman that I respect and feel so blessed to have met her. Below are a few of her links where you can find her and all her beautiful romance novels. I personally have read and fell in love with her stories. I know you will too! Until next time!

@Maureen Shigeno

Guest Post: Scribblers's Sojourn

Monday, March 19, 2018

The inspiration behind Eye on the Ballby Francine Beaton

Maybe years of following rugby and the increasing popularity of the game, had been the inspiration behind, or the reason for the series, Playing for Glory, of which Eye on the Ball is the first book to be published.

When you meet a fellow rugby enthusiast on a boat cruise on the Hudson during the Fourth of July celebrations, there had to be a reason why such a meeting made an impression. It was only on the long flight from New York to Johannesburg that the idea of the series started to form. Before then, I never considered writing about my beloved sport, not even romances. For the eight months since that New York trip, I plotted and wrote the first six books in the series and outlines of several other books. None of them was Eye on the Ball.
The first scene of Eye on the Ball came while watching a Six Nation’s Rugby Match on television. I got up, went to my study to type it up. When I was finished, I had the names of the two characters, Jakes and Ange, and I had the first scene of the book, but that was it.

When I plotted the series approximately eight months before, I created a team list. I planned the first six books, and built the team around the characters in those books, which I’ve written in that eight months. The only character that I had on my team list who might have been Jakes was the eighth man, JJ du Plessis, who didn’t have a story. He was just a number in the team. After I wrote that first scene, I thought it was going to be a Christmassy kind of story and called it, Under the Mistletoe.

After writing that first scene, Jakes kept on popping in my head and I spent more time thinking about him than I did the manuscript I’ve been working on. A few days after I’ve written that scene, the rugby world was shocked by the passing away of the Wallaby Dan Vickerman. There were many panel discussions and articles about his passing, but a discussion on a New Zealand talk show about Dan’s death and the struggles of professional sportsmen and women, really caught my attention. One panellist said that it was not uncommon that men in a macho environment don’t talk about their emotions and fears as they don’t want to appear weak. That phrase caught my attention and stuck.

I thought about it constantly. The only research before I continued writing was what could cause men in macho environments to fear that they were weak—or any man for that matter. I had my story in a matter of minutes.The following morning I woke up at four, went to sit at the computer and started writing. It was amazing. It just flowed. The rest of the research I had to do along the way or afterwards. When I finished with the first draft barely a week after I’ve started, I had more than 130000 words.

After writing Eye on the Ball, I realized that this was not going to be the typical sports romance I envisioned when I planned the series. Jakes was the catalyst, I guess. Although Jakes had the looks, the physicality, macho male image, the intelligence and other attributes to make him an alpha male, Jakes wanted to highlight important issues that had nothing to do with his looks. I had no choice other than to comply.

Eye on the Ball is about a man who struggles to keep his focus on what he felt was important—his teammates, his team and their end goal. It is also about a woman who is strong enough to deal with Jakes’ fears and insecurities, although it may not sound like it. It sounds like Jakes’ story and it mostly is but Ange is one of those women who doesn’t need the limelight. It doesn’t make her weak.