Wednesday 4 February 2015

Marion Grace Woolley - Q&A

Marion Grace Woolley is a multi-genre author published by Ghoswoods, Netherworld and Green Sunset. She currently lives in Rwanda and is the Manager of Pagan Writers Community.

Her latest release, Those Rosy Hours at Mazandarn is due out on 14th February 2015. 

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, via her blog and website. She also has a bi-monthly newsletter. There is a Facebook page for Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran.

This month we're shining the spotlight on PWC Manager, Marion Grace Woolley, ahead of her forthcoming release Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran on 14th February 2015. We've put your PWC questions to her and demanded honest answers!

Who is the girl on the cover of Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran?

That's actually a photograph called To The End by Iranian photographer Babak Fatholahi. He's incredibly talented, as is Hungarian cover designer Gábor Csigás, who put everything together. I'm not entirely sure who she is, but there's an article online all about how they made the cover. To me, she is the perfect depiction of my main character, Afsar.

Have you ever been to Iran?

No, sadly not, though I feel as though I have. The closest I ever got was a job in Armenia, which borders Northern Iran, and once, on my way to East Africa, I flew directly over Sari where the book is set. I was so excited, I took a screen shot of the flight path!

I've heard this is about Phantom of the Opera. What made you choose this subject?

The inspiration for Rosy Hours did come from Phantom of the Opera, but you don't need to know that story to enjoy this one. The Phantom of the Opera was originally a serialisation by French writer Gaston Leroux, for a daily newspaper. Within the story, Leroux hinted at another story involving the Phantom, one in which he spent his youth travelling the world and eventually ended up in Mazandaran, Northern Iran, as the playfellow of The Little Sultana.

People have written about this before, perhaps one of the best know is Susan Kay's 1990 novel Phantom. However, I wanted to take a different approach. I wanted to tell it from the Sultana's perspective. She shared the future Phantom's lust for darkness, and I wanted to explore what could make a young girl, born into ultimate privilege and power, so twisted.

In so doing, the novel became a historical intrigue which stands alone in its telling, but which links to many of the characters and events hinted at in Leroux's original.

What is your writing process? Do you plan your novels?

No, my writing process is fairly haphazard. I like to be surprised by what happens.

With Rosy Hours, I've actually blogged the entire process from writing it to finding a publisher and all the pre-release work that goes into launching a novel.

What was the hardest part about writing the book?

Writing Historical Fiction is always hard, knowing when to stop cramming facts and start writing a story. Thankfully there are so many helpful resources nowadays, such as picture archives, YouTube documentaries and academic articles available online. I like to spend the first few weeks immersing myself in the culture and history of the time, then let my fingers start tapping.

Another part that was difficult was recreating a half-told story by a cult author. Phantom of the Opera has a large following, and it is a delicate balancing act trying to remain true to the original characters whilst taking them to a place and time many might not imagine to find them. As with any story that has a large following, readers feel a strong sense of ownership over those characters. Some will follow you to fresh territory, whereas others prefer to remember the characters as they were first told. I'm prepared for mixed reactions from Phantom fans, but I hope that the book hits its mark with new readers.

In your guest post, you talk about the religions of Iran whilst you were researching. How influential is religion on this book?

Religions are as influential on this book as they have been on the history of Iran. Though, for me, the book is more about the stories of religion, the folklore. All religions are built on stories, on heroes and villains, creation myth and colourful retellings. The history of Persia is particularly blessed on this count, with Ferdowsi's Shahnameh.

I'm a writer, I love stories and the way stories affect psyche and shape nations. Many of those stories have found their way into Rosy Hours, and hopefully they add a certain richness to it.

What is your involvement with Pagan Writers Community?

I took over PWC in 2013, after its original founders at Pagan Writers Press felt they didn't have enough time to administer it. I'd been a Facebook moderator for a while, and it was an honour to be offered the chance to take it on.

For some reason the Facebook algorythms favoured us, and with a group of volunteers we took the page from 14,000 likes to over 62,000 in a matter of months! Then the pace slowed down and we've rested at that number for a while now.

I also added this blog, plus an author spotlight and book review section. I love Pagan Writers Community, but we could really do with some more volunteers to help manage it. 


If you would like to know more about Marion, check out her guest blog The Day of Chaos.

We will be launching a writing competition to win a signed copy of Marion's novel Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran.