I would like to welcome, Anna Belfrage back to Layered Pages to talk about her writing and how it has impacted her life. First, Anna, please tell your audience a little about yourself.
I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.
I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.
I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.
Why do you write?
As a child, I wrote because I couldn’t quite find the books I wanted – books in which medieval girls became pages and squires and rode off to adventure without risking burning at the stake like poor Joan of Arc. I also wrote because all the reading I did had me wandering about in constant day-dreams, where old logs were horses, our dog was a fearful wolf, and the only thing keeping the world from falling into the darkness of Mordor was little me. Yes, yes; a child with a hero complex – and a desperate wish to be somewhere else.
Not that I was unhappy – not at all – but where I spent my days imagining Middle Earth or the long gone past, my friends were mostly geared towards the future, their eyes going quite, quite blank when I enthusiastically shared my latest insights about the Maya Indians, or about Henry IV – or King John. So instead of boring them to tears I saved my forays into the world of history and magic for my convoluted scribbling in my precious notebooks.
I grew older and found the whole adolescent thing very trying. Breasts sprouted where I didn’t want them (I mean, who has ever heard of a stalwart knight with a +C cup?), my previous agile self- struggled with new curves, with a definite shift in the point of gravity, and all of this I wrote about – but whether I liked it or not, these teenage writing efforts included an entirely novel genre: romance. I no longer fantasised about being a page or squire – I wanted to be my valiant knight’s true love. Pathetic, huh? The only thing I can say in my defence is that I expanded my historical perspectives substantially. I still have the very sad, very poignant story of Christina, orphaned in the English Civil War, betrayed by her guardian, her brother – potentially even by her husband. (As I am a big fan of HEA, Christina and her husband were happily reunited – or not so happily, as they stood hand in hand and watched Charles I die.)
These days, I write for the sheer joy of putting on paper the stories that throng my head, stories in which love, heady adventure and historical background play prominent roles – I have a thing about the 17th century, all that religious upheaval and political unrest makes me go into a fizzy, creative spin. (And boy am I a sucker for love – and HEA, which at times causes major conflicts when writing about real people…)
I also write to make sense of my life, I write to concentrate my thoughts, I write invented people into my life (and that of my readers) I write these same people out (and cry buckets) I write and write, and it is as essential to me as breathing, an urge that has me springing out of bed in the midnight hours just to jot down that snippet of conversation that is buzzing in my head.
It is also an escape valve, allowing me to be entirely in control. Well; I must qualify that statement, as my characters tend to be quite opinionated as to what will happen to them, but in principle I’m in charge. In principle.
Why do I write? I write because I can do no other – not without shrivelling up inside.
How has writing impacted your life?
That’s a difficult question, as I seem to always have written – in one form or other. But once I decided to really take my writing seriously, to listen to the voices in my head and build a story round their whispered confidences, I had to make choices. After all, there are only twenty-four hours to the day, right? So these days, my husband irons his own shirts, my children all know how to cook and how to clean the house. Plus I don’t exactly sit around and slouch in front of the TV…
I also think my writing helps me handle my impulsive – read temperamental – side. Writing per definition forces an element of reflection, and since I have started to spend a substantial amount of hours a week on my writing, I have become far better at thinking before speaking.
Mostly though, writing has impacted my life by putting me in touch with so many wonderful, encouraging people – both other writers and readers. My life is truly enriched by all these my “book” friends.
What advice would you give to beginner writers?
To read! Not only books in “your” genre, but broadly, so as to expose yourself to various styles of writing. Also, of course, to write – and to understand that the first few efforts will require re-write after re-write before it reaches a passable standard.
Once again, don’t only write your genre: write posts, write reviews, write argumentative articles, write short-stories, write, write, write. One day, you will have found your voice, your style, a way of stringing words and paragraphs together that will be immediately recognisable as your work. Congratulations: that is the moment in which you become a writer.
Remember that you write for yourself – so write what you feel passionate about, not what you think the market might want to read. The market is fickle, what it likes one year, it scorns the next. Write what you would want to read, pour your heart and soul into it, and be genuine. And once you’re quite convinced you’re done, that this masterpiece of yours cannot be improved by as much as a comma, lay it aside for some months and then open it anew. Let me tell you, there will be more than the odd comma to fix – which is why every ambitious author always has an editor. Don’t skimp on the editor! Ever.
Finally, writing is an art at which you get better the more you practise. It is a time-consuming addiction that will enrich your life in so many ways – but also cause you to tear at your hair in frustration, because that perfect scene in your head just doesn’t translate into paper. So what are you waiting for? Pick up that pen (or open your computer) and WRITE!
Link to youtube Book Trailer